The Raiders applied their franchise tag on strong safety Tyvon Branch in advance of Monday's deadline, the team made official on their website Thursday.
We are pleased that Tyvon will return to the Raiders in 2012, general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a statement. Tyvon is a talented, productive player who we hope will be wearing the Silver and Black for many years to come. We will continue to work on a long-term deal to make that happen.
The tag for safeties is expected to be between 6.22 million and 6.459 million, not exactly a king's ransom for a front-line defensive player, but just enough to raise some eyebrows for a franchise already needing to shed some 22 million by March 13 to get in compliance with the NFL's thus far-unannounced salary cap. It was just over 120 million last season.
Tagging Branch, 25, who led the Raiders with 109 tackles last season, seems to spell an end to the tenure of the Raiders' other most valuable unrestricted free agent -- running back Michael Bush, who replaced the injured Darren McFadden in Week 7 and ran for a team-high 977 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry after becoming the starter.GUTIERREZ: Which big contracts will Raiders restructure?
But he seemed to wear down at the end of the season and the franchise tender for running backs is expected to be between 7.778 million and 8.088 million. Plus, the Raiders seem to have faith that McFadden, who is due to make 5.65 million in base salary in 2012 and has a salary cap number of 9.478 million, is healthy again.New coach Dennis Allen is a defensive-minded coach, one who cut his teeth coaching the secondary in New Orleans. So he obviously sees something he can mold with the play-making Branch.With Branch, the Raiders have used the franchise tag in four of the past five years -- on linebacker Kamerion Wimbley last year, before restructuring his deal, on defensive tackle Richard Seymour in 2010 and on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in 2008.Branch had a breakout season in 2011. Besides leading the Raiders in tackles, he also had an interception and was a Pro Bowl alternate.His becoming the focal point of Allen's defense might also mean the end of Michael Huff's time in Oakland. Huff, who has a base salary of 4 million, has a 4-million roster bonus due on March 15 and a salary cap number of 9,828,750 for 2012.