Aug 16, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; Oakland Raiders strong safety Tyvon Branch (33) tackles New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram (22) during the second quarter of a preseason game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
A not so glamorous yet potentially impactful move the Kansas City Chiefs made this offseason was signing free-agent strong safety Tyvon Branch from the Oakland Raiders.
Branch was released in February, creating $3 million in cap space for the Raiders. Kansas City had the questionable future of Eric Berry and poor run defense on their minds in making the decision to sign Branch. The move was very much a low risk with the possibility of a high reward.
The contract is only a one-year deal for $2 million with another $2 million that can be made from incentives. With the recent success the Kansas City Royals have been enjoying with prove-it contracts on previously successful players, there has to be a certain level of optimism for Chiefs fans.
If you had forgotten about Branch in the last couple of years it’s understandable. He has only played a total of five games (three in ’14 and two in ’13) in the last two seasons due to significant foot and ankle injuries. You have to go back to 2012 to see the last time Branch played a full season, but you’ll also see stats that explain the Chiefs decision on rolling the dice. Branch isn’t Berry or Earl Thomas but he’s in the same class as a tackling safety, when healthy anyway.
In 2012, Branch started 16 games and finished the season with 74 tackles, tied with Ryan Clark and Harrison Smith as the 10th-best in the league among safeties. Prior to 2012 he was one of the top tackling safeties in 2009, 2010, and 2011.
How does this help the Chiefs, though? With questions around when Berry will be returning to play football, the focus is getting players on the field that contribute in a similar way. Last year we had Ron Parker and Husain Abdullah who both struggled against the run. In 2014, Pro Football Focus had Abdullah at a +7.4 pass coverage grade and -5.7 on run defense. Parker similarly scored a positive coverage grade at +2.8 but struggled against the run with a -9.6 by PFF which was 6th-worst in the league.
“I guess when you start making big hits and stuff, they automatically categorize you as a box safety, but I have some coverage skills. I match up on tight ends. I match up on wide receivers. I’ve had some success with that.”
Tyvon was interviewed shortly after the signing and asked about what brings to the Chiefs, “I guess when you start making big hits and stuff, they automatically categorize you as a box safety, but I have some coverage skills. I match up on tight ends. I match up on wide receivers. I’ve had some success with that.”
Basically, we’re getting a safety that can cover a tight end and play well against the run. It’s always strange when rival players from the dark side come to the light and wear the red and gold. Could we have another Marcus Allen in the making or will it be another Chester McGlockton?
Branch at the very least could provide some needed depth at the safety position and or be a gunner in the special teams where he thrived initially in Oakland. So in other words he’s capable of contributing one way or another to this 2015 Chiefs team.