Alan Branch seemed to be asking for the Buffalo Bills to cut him.
The team did Sunday.
Branch, 29, was released a day after coach Doug Marrone revealed the eighth-year pro was inactive for Saturday’s preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers because he was arrested.
Branch was charged with driving while intoxicated by state police at about 2 a.m. Saturday morning in Cheektowaga. He was seen vomiting out the driver’s side door of his vehicle.
According to police, Branch failed a field sobriety test and had a blood-alcohol content of .14 percent, above the legal limit of .08.
“I’m going to meet with him tomorrow. I found out somewhere around noon,” Marrone said after the game. “I just had so much on my mind. I tried to call him and couldn’t get a hold of him, so I just got a hold of him some other way through other people and said, ‘I’ll meet with you tomorrow.’ That’s all I know for a fact.”
Marrone was then asked whether Branch’s roster spot would be in jeopardy.
“I can’t answer that question now,” he said. “The reason why is that my mindset is on the guys that are back here in this locker room right now and what we’ve got to do for the team.”
The answer came Sunday afternoon in a one-sentence news release from the team.
Branch’s arrest proved to be the last straw, but there was mounting evidence his roster spot was in jeopardy even before that. After signing a three-year contract extension in December – and pocketing a $3.1 million signing bonus – Branch skipped all of voluntary offseason workouts.
He reported to training camp last month out of shape and was placed on the active/non-football illness list.
That seemed to place Branch firmly in Marrone’s doghouse. During the first three preseason games, Branch was with the third team, playing deep into the fourth quarter.
“We’re working him back in there, but you just have to be careful,” Marrone said earlier this month. “You don’t want to put someone out there and they either can’t perform well or put themselves in jeopardy or anyone else.”
Branch will count $775,000 against the Bills’ salary cap this season, the amount of his prorated signing bonus. The remaining $1.55 million of that signing bonus will be dead money on the Bills’ 2015 cap.
Branch’s release will likely save the Bills $1.9 million against this year’s cap – the total of his $1.8 million base salary and $100,000 workout bonus that he likely did not collect since he did not participate in the voluntary sessions. It’s possible the Bills could attempt to recoup some of the signing bonus money paid to Branch in December because of his arrest, but it was unclear Sunday if they would pursue that.
As evidenced by the contract extension they gave him at the end of 2013, the Bills were counting on Branch to play a significant role on their defense this season. In his lone year with the Bills, the 6-foot-6, 325-pounder started 13 games and played in all 16, making a career-high 39 tackles while playing 52 percent of the defensive snaps.
He figured to provide quality veteran depth behind starting defensive tackles Kyle Williams and Marcell Dareus – and could have been in line for significant playing time should Dareus be suspended by the NFL for his multiple arrests this offseason.
Instead, that opportunity now falls to younger players like Corbin Bryant and Stefan Charles. Bryant, 26, started next to Dareus on Saturday with Williams out because of a leg injury. The 6-4, 300-pounder played 29 percent of the defensive snaps in 2013, making 14 tackles and one sack in 14 games (one start).
Charles, 26, played just 83 defensive snaps in 2013. He’s a 6-5, 323-pounder.
The Bills also signed 28-year-old Landon Cohen at the start of training camp. The five-year veteran has experience with five different NFL teams, including 13 games last year with the Chicago Bears.
Branch’s release leaves the Bills with 86 players on their active roster – including linebacker Kiko Alonso who is on the active/non-football injury list and is expected to miss the entire season. The roster must be trimmed to 75 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday.
The Bills were off Sunday. The team returns to practice at its Orchard Park headquarters at noon today.