Patriots finally sign Alan Branch, release Deonte Skinner to make room

Defensive end Alan Branch has been around the Patriots facilities for a full week now, yet he still wasn't signed.

 The team finally made things official, and Branch will be practicing with the team today.

A second round pick in 2007, Branch had a career year last season with the Buffalo Bills, but failed his conditioning test this August and was released by the team. Last season, Branch stood out especially against the run - which the Pats could use some help with. ProFootballFocus gave him a 5.4 grade in run defense (10th best among 3-4 defensive ends who played at least 25% of snaps) and tallied him with 28 defensive stops (tied for 11th best in the league).

At the cost of Branch comes linebacker Deonte Skinner. Skinner was pressed into a bigger role when All-Pro Jerod Mayo first went down against the Bills. However, the Pats have made several trades for linebacker depth - bringing in Akeem Ayers and Jonathan Casillas. That makes Skinner a bit expendable, though the team will likely try to slide him into the practice squad.