On the surface, the free-agent acquisition of defensive end Andre Branch may not seem overly significant. He is a 26-year-old backup who recorded just four sacks for the Jacksonville Jaguars last season.
But Branch's reserve role with the Miami Dolphins will be an important one. He is expected to be the first player off the bench to spell 30-plus starting defensive ends Cameron Wake (34) and Mario Williams (31). Wake is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury and Williams is trying to bounce back after a down year with the Buffalo Bills. Both will need rest at such a physically demanding position.
Enter Branch, who said he chose the Dolphins over six other teams showing interest.
“I think the Dolphins were the right place for me. The coaching staff is full of energy,” Branch said on a conference call with the Miami media. “I get to learn from a lot of vets that I never got the chance to do (in my career) with Williams, Cam Wake and (DT) Ndamukong Suh. I’m just ready, man. I’m just ready for a new beginning, a new start and getting this thing rolling.”
Branch is expected to fill the role left by former Dolphin Derrick Shelby, who signed with the Atlanta Falcons in free agency. The Dolphins are hoping Branch, who has just 12 starts in four years, is more consistent than he was in Jacksonville.
The former second-round pick could be an early starter during the offseason program while Wake continues to rehab. According to Branch, he expects to have “a very prominent role” on Miami's defense this upcoming season.
“Basically, (I’ll) be opposite of Mario Williams and then on rush downs, when Cam Wake gets back, it will be me, Cam, Suh and Mario,” Branch explained. “Those guys have been playing at a high level their whole career and I’m ready to learn from those guys.”