The 6-foot-6, 325-pound defensive tackle said he received interest from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots in free agency. But the chance to play alongside defensive end Mario Williams and fellow defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus stood out in his decision to sign with Buffalo this week.
“All those guys are already established,” Branch said in a telephone interview with ESPN.com's AFC East blog. “And I'm going to go there and show that I can play too, and they can trust that I’m going to do my job within the system.”
Branch is one of just three free-agent signings Buffalo has made this offseason. Unlike their 2012 spending spree, the Bills have carefully selected players they think can make an immediate impact. Branch joins veteran linebacker Manny Lawson and quarterback Kevin Kolb in Buffalo's 2013 free-agent class.
The move to add Branch, 28, makes sense. The former Seattle Seahawk is a quality run-stopper who has experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive alignments. Branch said he feels "at home" with either.
New Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine aims to run a hybrid scheme -- and to fix a run defense that ranked 31st last season.
“I think it’s a good fit for both sides,” said Branch's agent, Blake Baratz of Institute for Athletes. “Alan is a big, athletic body who has a lot of good football in front of him. And the Bills want to play a hybrid scheme and has trouble stopping the run.
“I’ve always been a big believer that you have to start inside out, and there’s an opportunity there to make a difference.”
Branch also comes to Buffalo with a much-needed winner’s mentality. The Bills have the NFL’s longest playoff drought at 14 years. Branch played on multiple playoff teams with Seattle and the Arizona Cardinals, including the 2008 Arizona team that lost to Pittsburgh in the Super Bowl.
Despite changes at head coach (Doug Marrone) and quarterback (Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson), Branch said the Bills made it clear during his visit that they are not approaching 2013 as a rebuilding year.
“They definitely don't sound like they're starting things over," Branch explained. "The way it sounded to me is the Bills are bringing in pieces to get them over that hump. They already started that rebuilding, and now they're putting pieces in place for us to get around the corner."