Defensive tackle Alan Branch will hit free agency after the New England Patriots declined to pick up his 2018 contract option, a source told

Branch was set to count $4.55 million against the salary cap in 2018. The Patriots freed up $3.55 million in salary cap room by declining to pick up the 2018 contract option.

This move does not come as a surprise. He was a healthy scratch in Super Bowl LII after a disappointing 2017 campaign.

Branch played in just 12 regular season games with six starts last season, recording 12 tackles. He didn’t appear in the postseason after veteran defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois passed him on the depth chart. He also was a healthy scratch in Week 5 after he didn’t make the trip to Tampa Bay to play the Buccaneers.

Branch first joined the Patriots in 2014. He played 52 games with 38 starts in four seasons with 74 tackles, 2.5 sacks, six pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He won two Super Bowls with the team.

The Patriots signed him to a two-year, $8.45 million contract last offseason. Branch was one of the Patriots’ most consistent defenders in 2016 before signing his new deal. He said last month he intends to continue playing football.

The Patriots have Malcom Brown, Lawrence Guy, Adam Butler and Vincent Valentine on their roster at defensive tackle. Jean Francois is a free agent.

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