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Alan Branch re-signs with Patriots, keeping a Super Bowl-winning defensive line intact

The burly run stopper will try to earn his third Super Bowl ring with New England.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Alan Branch has been a run-stopping anchor for a pair Super Bowl-winning defenses in New England. He’ll aim for a third NFL title after re-signing with the Patriots for a two-year deal worth up to $12 million.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport broke the news on Twitter Thursday.

Branch spent his last three seasons with New England, playing in all 32 games the past two seasons and starting 30. The 6’6, 350-pound tackle is a block-absorbing run stopper, often commanding interior double-teams on hand offs and creating space for his teammates to thrive. His 49 tackles last season were a career high.

The 32-year-old defender broke into the league in 2007 after an All-American career at Michigan. The Cardinals selected him with the 33rd pick in the NFL draft, but Branch failed to live up to early expectations. He played in just 15 games his first two seasons before developing into a rotational presence in Arizona, leading the franchise to allow him to hit the free agent market once his rookie contract expired in 2011.

That led him to Seattle, where he assumed a starting role in the team’s defense in the pre-”Legion of Boom” era. Branch spent two seasons on the West Coast before signing a one-year deal with Buffalo in 2013. He played well enough there to earn a three-year, $9.3 million extension, but a DUI arrest the following offseason led the Bills to cut him.

The Patriots gave him a second chance, and it turned out to be the best thing that has happened to his career. Branch only played in eight games his first season with the club, but won a Super Bowl ring after making three tackles to help defeat the Seahawks in 2015. He had three more tackles and a half sack this February to help New England post the most shocking comeback in NFL history at Super Bowl 51.

Now, Branch will have the opportunity to earn $12 million while playing for one of the league’s top teams. His presence as a starter has been a big part of the Patriots’ top 10 rushing defense the past two seasons. Bill Belichick and his front office are betting those contributions will continue into the 2018 season.