Branch, 27, was a fourth-round pick by the Panthers from Stanford in 2003. He played in 16 games as a rookie, as well as in 2004 and 2006. He missed the 2005 season with an anterior cruciate ligament injury.
"Right after the surgery is the hardest part," Branch said. "You are in a tremendous amount of pain and you're right in your bed -- and I think that is when I was the most irritable." Even a basic leg lift -- where you lay on a table with the lower leg hanging over the edge -- became a struggle for Branch. It was tough to take for a guy who had grown used to the idea of being a finely tuned athlete and could once lift several hundred pounds with his legs.
"It was very frustrating," Branch said. "I'd try to lift my leg and I couldn't even keep it straight. The lower part of my leg would collapse because my quadriceps wasn't strong enough. That would frustrate me so much."
His best year came in 2004 when he started and came up with three interceptions and 55 tackles. But he wasn't able to regain his starting job coming off injury.
Branch played a significant amount of snaps on special teams for the Panthers.
He has four career interceptions. The 5-foot 11, 205-pound Branch was declared a free agent March 2.
Scouting report coming out of college:
Is good both vs. the run and in coverage. Made the calls in the secondary last year and was adept at it. Isn't a textbook big hitter as safeties go. Doesn't have a lot of bulk and isn't viewed as an in-the-box run stuffer
Really helped his stock at the Combine, running a 4.41 40, doing 22 reps and a 36-inch vertical jump. Is seen as a player with plenty of upside who went from a late-round pick to probably landing in the fourth round by having one of the best numbers showings at the Combine.