By Brady Henderson
The possibility of free agent Alan Branch returning to the Seahawks seemed unlikely when the team added another defensive tackle, Tony McDaniel, on a one-year deal last week.
Branch’s deal with the Bills erases any lingering doubt.
Branch and the Bills have agreed to a one-year, $3 million deal that includes up to $350,000 in incentives, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
Branch, 28, was a starter and a solid run stuffer in each of his two seasons with the Seahawks, reviving a career that got off to an underwhelming start in Arizona. He wanted to return to the Seahawks.
“Hopefully they want me here and the whole money situation gets settled,” he told reporters a day after the Seahawks’ playoff loss to Atlanta. “If not, there won’t be a better group of guys than this, for sure. But we’ll see.”
Branch’s two-year deal with the Seahawks was worth $8 million, so the fact that he isn’t signing for more money elsewhere suggests that Seattle only wanted him back at a reduced rate. That would be understandable given the money the Seahawks committed to Percy Harvin, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. Their contracts will count a combined $13.45 million against the 2013 salary cap.
The Seahawks presumably found a cheaper alternative in McDaniel, or at least one option for replacing Branch in the starting lineup.
Perhaps the decision to let Branch leave in free agency was also influenced by the team’s hopes for Jaye Howard, a 2012 fourth-round pick who appeared in only two games as a rookie last season. Seattle could also use one of its 10 draft picks on a defensive tackle.
Branch and linebacker Leroy Hill were the Seahawks’ only starters unsigned for 2013. Hill is still a free agent.