Four seasons ago, when the Arizona Cardinals stole defensive tackle Alan Branch out of the second round of the draft, many fans believed he'd shore up a need in the middle of the Cardinals defense. At the time, Branch's issues leading up to the draft had impacted his stock, as he fell to the second round. The Cardinals however, were familiar drafting defenders with character issues. Not long before Branch joined the team, the Cardinals took a chance on Darnell Dockett in the third round of the 2004 draft. He turned out to be one of the best decisions the Cardinals front office has made in recent history.
But getting back to Branch, it appeared as though he and Dockett -- paired with the rest of the talent on defense -- would develop into one of the best defensive tackle tandems throughout the league. What happened instead, was a disappointing two seasons that saw Branch at the end of a lot of criticism. Head coach Ken Whisenhunt had to call out Branch for his lack of commitment and he even used the old light bulb expression.
|2010 - Alan Branch||14||2||7||0||0||0||27||8||35|
That may have been the best approach, as Branch gradually received more playing time the last two seasons. 2010 was statistically Branch's best season to date. The same motor he displayed at Michigan finally started to show in flashes, but is it too late?
Entering the 2011 offseason, Branch will be an unrestricted free agent. Veteran defender Bryan Robinson will become a free agent as well, and is expected to retire. With second year man Dan Williams the only option, the Cardinals will need to make a decision. Does Branch stay and continue to improve? Or does he walk? There's also no guarantee that the light bulb will continue to shine. It may come down to the money. If Branch feels that he's worth more then what the Cardinals may offer him, he'll see out his options. After all, his stay in Arizona hasn't been the best and many teams will be in need of a defensive tackle. His experience, paired along with the depth he can bring may entice the Cardinals front office enough to sign the dotted line. Do you believe Branch should stay? If so, what can he bring to the table that a rookie won't?