Heading into the 2013 offseason, the Seattle Seahawks will be faced with a number of decisions on impending free agents. While the majority of them are cut and dry, one that could cause some headaches for the Seattle front office is whether or not to re-sign defensive tackle Alan Branch.
A second-round pick out of Michigan in 2007, Branch has yet to reach his full potential as a dominant anchor along the defensive front. The Arizona Cardinals, his original team, gave up on the underwhelming defensive tackle back in 2010, allowing him to walk via free agency at the expiration of his rookie contract. The Seahawks signed Branch to a two-year, $8-million “prove it” deal, but still have yet to see him live up to his potential.
Throughout his two seasons in Seattle, Branch has racked up 63 total tackles, four sacks and two deflected passes. Since joining the Seahawks, he has started 31 of 32 possible regular season games and helped their defense become one of the best in the NFL in 2012.
Despite playing a part in the Seahawks’ recent success, Branch still hasn’t proven himself to be the second-round talent that the Cardinals thought he was coming out of college. Even though he continues to underwhelm, the Seahawks might not be willing to part ways with him just yet.
The only viable options that Seattle has to take over for Branch at the three-technique are Jaye Howard or Clinton McDonald, neither of who appear ready for a starting role. Both need more time to adjust to speed and size of the NFL, which could secure another year or two for Branch as they continue to develop.
The final aspect that could save Branch’s job in Seattle for the time being is his standing as a leader on and off the field. Teammates have spoken often of the defensive tackle’s presence in the locker room, and keeping him around could be worth it for a young team looking to assert their presence atop the list of NFC contenders.
With a tremendous supporting cast around him, Branch shouldn’t have any trouble thriving in the middle of the Seattle defense. We’ll see soon enough whether or not the Seahawks think his price tag is worth the modest production.