(Note: This continues a series in Daily Dolphin spotlighting members of the team individually. In addition to reliving highlights and lowlights of the past season for each, we’ll provide analysis and criticism, plus take a look at how each player fits — or doesn’t fit — into the team’s plans for 2017.)
DE Andre Branch
Height, weight: 6-5, 263
Age: 28 as of July 13
Experience: Entering sixth season, second with Dolphins
Acquired: Signed as a free agent from Jacksonville in March 2016
Contract: Recently re-signed to a three-year deal reportedly worth $24 million to $27 million (estimates vary)
Pro Football Focus rank: 70th of 109
Stats: 49 tackles, 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles
Notable moments: Had career-high six tackles, a sack, one pass defensed and forced a fumble vs. Arizona.
Straight talk: You could look at his Pro Football Focus ranking or his 5.5 sacks and wonder why all those millions.
Let’s offer a little perspective. First, PFF also rated Mario Williams higher than Branch. Enough said?
Second, Branch wasn’t a starter the first half of the season. After the Dolphins decided to go with Branch and Cameron Wake as their first-team ends, they went 9-2 — the most important stat of all.
“I would love to have him back,” Wake said during Pro Bowl practice, when the winds of free agency made Branch’s departure a real possibility.
The common thinking was it would come down to money, and let’s face it, the dollars on the best contract of his career aren’t bad. But all along, Branch insisted it was more than the money, that he wanted to stick around because of “unfinished business,” that he was impressed by the “brotherhood and camaraderie” promoted by coach Adam Gase.
“There’s something there that you don’t run across too much,” Branch said. “It felt like family.”
Even after being eliminated from the playoffs by the Steelers, he called this “a season to remember for me.”
The check Stephen Ross wrote after the season assured it would be.
Prospects for 2017
Re-signing Branch affords the Dolphins one fewer headache this summer. Especially in South Florida’s early season heat, two defensive ends aren’t enough, so look for Branch and Wake to open this season as starters, with newcomers William Hayes and Charles Harris being the first off the bench to give them a breather.
One can only hope Branch continues to demand high standards for the defense. Asked this spring what was wrong with the run defense last season, he didn’t mince words.
“When we look back on last year and we look back on things, people weren’t just doing their job,” Branch said. “When you’re supposed to be in a position, they weren’t there.”
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