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March 28, 2013 at 5:31 PM

Alan Branch, Tony McDaniel and John Schneider’s big man bargains

Alan Branch wasn’t the most successful of Seattle’s free-agent signings.

He didn’t have the impact of someone like Sidney Rice, who led Seattle with 50 catches last season. He never had a game like tight end Zach Miller, who had 142 yards receiving in the Divisional Playoffs against Atlanta.

But Branch ranked as a thoroughly effective addition, a player Seattle signed to a two-year, $7 million contract in 2011 who then held down a starting spot for two years in the middle of one of the league’s better defenses.

Branch’s success was relatively modest when compared to importing a Pro Bowler from the CFL in Brandon Browner of a fifth-round pick becoming an All-Pro as Richard Sherman did, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Branch turned out to be a far better player than his previous employer imagined. The Arizona Cardinals drafted him in the second round and concluded after four years he was an underachiever. His two years in Seattle said otherwise.

And now, it’s Seattle’s success with Branch that vouches for the organization’s move to replace him with Tony McDaniel, and if that sounds confusing, well, just hang with us for a second.

You have to put the addition of McDaniel in context with all the other moves that Seattle has made along its defensive line under general manager John Schneider, and that will take some time. See, there have been a lot of those moves whether it was letting Cory Redding leave as an unrestricted free agent in 2010, trading for Kevin Vickerson from Tennessee during the 2010 draft only to subsequently replace Vikcerson with Junior Siavii before the season began. A year later, Branch made the team while Siavii did not and last year came the one-year experiment with Jason Jones.

Where in that string of names do you come across a guy that makes you think, ‘Man, the Seahawks really should have kept him? They sure blew it.’ That’s not to say none of those players had value. Redding played a role on the Ravens’ playoff defense in 2010 — scored a postseason touchdown — and then he followed his defensive coordinator to Indianapolis when Chuck Pagano got the job as the Colts head coach last year. Vickerson is still in the league, too, playing with the Denver Broncos.

But the point is that Seattle kept searching for better talent while keeping the cost relatively low.

Branch was a good player for Seattle, but Seattle took a look at his work, measured it against the viability of a replacement like McDaniel and decided the latter represented a better value. Were the Seahawks right? We’ll have to wait until the season to find out, but Seattle’s track record at that position in particular indicates the Seahawks don’t often wind up shooting themselves in the foot.

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