In eight days, the NFL's free agency period will start – and the New England Patriots project to be busy. Before March 14, however, the team still has plenty of work to do in order to create salary cap space for potential free agency signings, internally and externally. One such move will reportedly involve defensive tackle Alan Branch.
According to NESN's Doug Kyed, the veteran will not return to the team in 2018:
The Patriots won’t pick up DT Alan Branch’s option, per source. He’ll become a free agent.
The Patriots originally signed Branch in October 2014 and he turned out to become one of the best in-season pick-ups in recent team history. Through the next four seasons, the former second round draft pick appeared in 60 games for New England and established himself as a productive presence in the middle of the team's defensive line – all while helping the team win two Super Bowls.
However, his 2017 season was a disappointing one. After signing a two-year, $8.45 million contract last March, Branch struggled with injuries and as a result slid down the depth chart until he was a healthy scratch for the Super Bowl. Considering that the Patriots will have net savings of $2.67 million by letting him go, it is not a surprise to see New England opt to part ways with the 33-year old.
Without Branch, the team has four pure defensive tackles left on the roster: Malcom Brown and Lawrence Guy as the starters, with Adam Butler and Vincent Valentine as the depth options behind them.