The Arizona Cardinals quietly made one of the best moves of free agency on Wednesday as they agreed to a deal with former Kansas City Chiefs’ safety Tyvon Branch. Branch was an excellent player for the Chiefs last season and he should be a major upgrade in the defensive backfield for the Cardinals.
Branch played in all 16 games last season in his first season as a Chief. He was the team’s third safety and he frequently played next to Eric Berry to create one of the better safety duos in the NFL. Branch, who was once a superstar for the Oakland Raiders, looked like he was regaining form and heading into free agency it was expected that he would leave the Chiefs and move to a team where he could start right away.
That is exactly what he did. The Cardinals were a perfect fit for Branch and he will be moving from playing with the best free safety in the league, Berry, to playing with the second best safety in the NFL, Tyrann Mathieu. Mathieu is going to be coming off of an ACL tear, so it makes sense that the team wanted to add a veteran to play next to him.
After all, Rashad Johnson and Tony Jefferson were only decent when they played in place of Mathieu, so having Branch will allow the team to use one of them as a third safety. Johnson is likely to sign elsewhere anyway and Branch is an upgrade over him.
For the Cardinals, the team obviously got a solid player, but the price at which they got him was great. The agreement is a two-year pact that will pay Branch only $10 million total. His average salary ranks about 18th among safeties, and that is a more than fair price to pay for a solid starter. He is also only making $5 million in guarantees, so even if he underperforms the Cardinals are not wasting too much money on him.
The one major concern with this deal is that Branch has struggled with injuries in the past. He missed 27 games in two seasons from 2013-14 and if he cannot stay healthy, he may not be worth the contract the Cardinals are him. Still, the team did a good job of protecting themselves.
Branch’s signing will not get too much attention, but it is still one of the best of the day. Branch could have a huge impact on the Cardinals’ already strong defense and the team will likely be happy with the deal they gave him.