Looking at the free agent profile of upcoming Patriots free agent defensive lineman Alan Branch.
Name: Alan Branch
Position: Defensive line
Status: Unrestricted free agent
2014 Season: Alan Branch was signed on October 29th of last year – one of a slew of shrew midseason acquisitions by Nick Caserio and Bill Belichick. Upon signing with the team, Branch was thrown right into the fire. He anchored a lot of Patriots’ 3-man fronts, especially while Sealver Siliga remained on short-term injured reserve. The 6’6", 330 lbs defensive lineman finished the season with 13 tackles and one pass defensed in eight games (2 starts). While he was not spectacular, he did his job as a two-gap space stuffer. He showed a little pocket push when needed, and played left end, right end, and nose in 3-man fronts.
Why the Patriots should sign him: While the Patriots do have plenty of depth at defensive tackle, and will have even more when 2014 first round draft choice Dominique Easley returns, they do not have a wealth of "big" defensive lineman that are a natural fit for the 2-gap system the Patriots deploy. Branch fits that mold. With contract uncertainty surrounding Vince Wilfork and Sealver Siliga coming off an injury-plagued campaign, Branch is nice veteran insurance.
Why the Patriots should let him walk: While Branch filled in nicely on short notice, his play wasn’t exceptional. There were a few instances (see: Baltimore, Divisional Playoffs) where Branch struggled to hold up at the point of attack. If the Patriots work things out with Vince Wilfork, they may want to go with a younger option to replace Branch’s 15-25 snaps. There is also a chance some team pays Branch relatively well on the open market.
Prediction: The Patriots will not make re-signing Branch a priority, but as with Gerard Warren a few years ago, they may take the wait-and-see approach. Ultimately, they could sign Branch to a one year, minimum deal with playing-time and active roster incentives built in.