The Dolphins made it their mission this offseason to retain their own free agents. They made an excellent start by re-signing defensive end Andre Branch to 3-year, $27 million dollar deal, a mere 24 hours before he was set to hit the open market, as first reported by NFL Network.
This deal will give the veteran pass rusher an average salary of $9 million per year, a bit high given his presumed level of talent, but with the market constantly rising and the salary cap doing the same, there's still a chance this deal could balance itself out.
Branch, who will turn 28 years old in July, was one of the only defensive ends left on Miami's roster besides Cameron Wake, Terrence Fede and Dion Jordan, whose fate with the team is still unknown as of this time. By re-signing Branch, the Dolphins make the DE position less of a need to address in the offseason, leaving room to be flexible in the draft.
Had Branch not signed, Miami's options in free agency would have been scarce, as top players such as Jason Pierre-Paul, Melvin Ingram and Chandler Jones all re-signed with their respective teams.
An option that had been floating around was former Green Bay Packers defensive end Datone Jones, and given the Dolphins' lack of depth at DE, that could still be a possibility to be explored, and there are multiple reports that Miami still intends to draft a defensive end high in this upcoming draft.
A wise move given this year's abundance of quality edge rushers coming out of college.
Branch had his best season rushing opposite of Cameron Wake and with All-Pro Ndamukong Suh crashing through the middle, taking over for veteran Mario Williams and putting together a 5.5 sack season, adding 49 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Hours before the signing was announced, Branch took to Twitter and sent out a very cryptic message.
Miami now has to take care of other players such as Kenny Stills and Kiko Alonso, the latter of which is right now working on a long-term deal with the Dolphins. With Branch signed, the offseason picture just became a little clearer.
This story was written by Luis Sung. Follow him on Twitter: @LuisDSung
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