Buffalo Bills Sign Alan Branch to Three-Year Contract Extension

A contract extension signed Monday ensured Alan Branch’s first season on the Buffalo Bills defensive line will not be his last. (Photo: Kevin Hoffman — USA Today Sports)

BBD Editor: Dan Hope

With seven sacks in Sunday’s shutout win against the Miami Dolphins and an NFL-leading 56 sacks this season, the Buffalo Bills’ pass-rush is on a roll. The franchise made a move to keep that pass-rush in tact by signing defensive lineman Alan Branch to a contract extension.

Branch’s extension is for three years, according to WGR’s Joe Buscaglia and other media reports. Financial terms of the extension have not yet been reported.

In his first season with the team, Branch has been a good fit in Buffalo’s new hybrid defensive scheme under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, as he has been a solid player as a defensive tackle in four-man fronts and as a defensive end in three-man fronts.

Branch has been a starter for the Bills since Alex Carrington went down with a quadriceps tear in Week 3. On a defensive line led by Mario Williams, Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus, he fails to stand out. That said, he has been a strong interior run defender for Buffalo this season: he has recorded 35 total tackles and has a 16.0 Pro Football Focus rating against the run this season, the eighth-best among NFL players classified as 3-4 defensive ends.

With Branch now part of the team’s long-term plans, Buffalo will have to make a decision on whether Carrington will also be in the plans going forward, as Carrington is set to be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. Carrington is a significantly better pass-rusher than Branch, who has none of the team’s 56 sacks this season.

Coming off an injury, Carrington’s best move may be to sign a one-year deal to boost his value for 2015, and if that is the case, Buffalo may well be able to bring him back for another year and form a rotation at the tackle/end spot with Branch as they had to start this season.

Still, while Buffalo may want to have a more adept interior pass-rusher to rotate in while Branch plays the run, the Bills wouldn’t have re-signed Branch if they did not envision him as a key player in their defensive line rotation for the next three years. While Branch does not often bring pressure on opposing quarterbacks, he does a good job of occupying blocks when he is on the field, which can often free up other players on the defense to bring pressure, especially when the Bills blitz with players such as middle linebacker Kiko Alonso from the second level.

The defensive front proved Sunday that it can be the crux of Buffalo’s success, and it has been the team’s strongest unit this season. Keeping that unit strong and in tact as the team works on building toward contention was important, and by re-signing Branch, the Bills now have all four of its starting defensive linemen signed through at least 2014 (Mario Williams is signed through 2017 and Kyle Williams through 2016, but unrestricted free agency looms for Dareus in 2015).

The Bills are en route to a losing record in Branch’s first season with the team, and have not made the postseason since 1999, but Branch is not returning to Buffalo with the expectation that Buffalo’s lack of success will continue.

Tags: 2014 Offseason, Alan Branch, Alex Carrington, Buffalo Bills, Contract Extension, Defensive Line, Free Agency

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