With NFL free agency just a few weeks away and we’re on the subject of cap casualties and free agents, I thought it would be a good idea to go over some of the Jacksonville Jaguars pending free agents and kind of assess where each one is at. I won’t go over all the players, but most of the "big names". Also note that players like Toby Gerhart, Zane Beadles, and more will not be included in this because, well, they’re not free agents. Yet.
First, I’m going to take a look at everyone’s favorite LEO pass rusher, Andre Branch. Originally drafted in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Branch never seemed to fulfill what the Jaguars thought he could be, which was a starting 4-3 weakside end who could rush the passer. While Branch has started a number of games as a weakside pass rusher, he hasn’t really brought much of a consistent pass rush with him.
What he does well: Branch is a bit of a weird case in that if you look at him physically, he looks like an NFL pass rusher. He appears like he has that athletic ability to come off the edge and put pressure on the quarterback in the backfield, but he doesn’t. He’s a bit of an odd cast in that he’s actually very good at holding the point of attack against the run and plays like a strongside end in a weakside end’s body. It’s one of the reason Branch has seen so much action in the LEO rotation despite his struggles to rush the passer, he’s very good holding up against the run.
Concerns: Branch is a pass rusher who is not good at rushing the passer. Branch is a classic "clean up" pass rusher, in that someone else does the creating and he ends up picking up the prize. He just does not have that natural ability to turn the corner rushing the passer from the end position and will often get run wide over and over during a game by any good offensive tackles. He can sometimes win with a bull rush/inside move, but for the most part you’ll see Branch looping inside on a stunt or running a few yards behind the quarterback with the lineman shadowing him. There are two types of pass rushers, creators and cleaners, and Branch is a cleaner.
Outlook: I don’t think the Jaguars will be bringing back Branch and quite honestly, they shouldn’t even be interested. He’s shown time and time again he’s not a fit in this system and scheme and relies on stunts to get his quarterback sacks. He also seems like one of those players in free agency who could get overpaid because of his physical talent and a team thinks they can "fix" him. Branch would be best served going to a team as a rotational pass rusher paired with a primary creator.