Yesterday afternoon the NFL announced that Patriots defensive tackle Alan Branch has been suspended four games for violating the NFL’s drug policy. Branch is in the middle of perhaps his best season yet, already recording 33 tackles, six short of his career high.
The suspension will force the Patriots to lose one of their best run defenders. Rookie Vincent Valentine will see the biggest increase in playing time next to Malcolm Brown. Rookie defensive tackle Woodrow Hamilton should also see more snaps.
While suspended, Branch will lose a significant amount of money; roughly $282,353 of his original $1.2 million base salary. Additionally, he’ll lose his four-game roster bonus ($100,000 total). Finally, the suspension makes it harder for him to reach his playing-time bonuses.
Branch’s contract stipulates a payout incentive of $250,000 if he plays 50 percent of the snaps, another $250,000 for 55 percent and an additional $250,000 for 60 percent. He has played (ironically) 420 snaps this season out of 687, a total of 61 percent. Missing four games would make it extremely difficult to reach those incentive numbers.
Overall, Branch could lose up to $1.13 million, and maybe more in his future. His original two-year deal worth $6.4 million will expire after this season.
Branch has had his share of background trouble in the past. In 2014 he was arrested for a DUI but received just a two-game fine and no suspension. He then entered into the league’s drug program, which triggered additional drug tests. Branch was also suspended for a week in the preseason by the team, but no reason was offered.
An appeal has already been filed by Branch and will be heard by a neutral third party. Decisions usually come rather quickly, so the outcome could be determined by the end of the week.