ANDERSON, Ind. — It's just the sort of move expected of Bill Belichick.
Sign a longtime member of the opponent's roster just days before a big game and pick his brain for intel.
With an AFC divisional playoff game looming against New England on Saturday, Colts head coach Chuck Pagano knew the questions would come. But he said Monday's addition of former Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch is about far more than subterfuge.
"Every decision we make is based on what's best for this team and what gives us the best chance to win," Pagano said during a previously scheduled conference call just moments after the signing was announced. "We just think we got one heck of a football player."
The numbers support that view.
Branch caught 328 passes for 4,297 yards and 24 touchdowns over seven seasons in New England. He was named MVP of the Patriots' Super Bowl XXXVIII victory against Carolina, catching 10 passes for 143 yards and one touchdown in just his third career playoff game.
Branch has 518 catches for 6,644 yards and 39 touchdowns in 12 seasons overall, including five with Seattle. In his only career game against the Patriots, he caught four passes for 88 yards and two touchdowns in a 24-21 home loss for the Seahawks on Dec. 7, 2008.
It's unclear how big a role Branch might play in Saturday's gameplan. He was signed in part because wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey left last week's win against Kansas City with a hamstring injury.
But Heyward-Bey lost his starting job to Da'Rick Rogers and hasn't had a reception since a Dec. 8 game in Cincinnati. And the Colts also promoted wide receiver Josh Lenz from the practice squad Monday, perhaps with an eye toward filling Heyward-Bey's increased role on special teams.
Pagano was coy about the team's plans for Branch, but he expressed confidence in the 34-year-old's ability.