Will the Raiders use the franchise tag?

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Will the Raiders use the franchise tag?

Monday marks the beginning of franchise tag season in the NFL, and with said season running through March 5, it bears watching what the Raiders will do, if anything.Oakland's two most valuable free agents are running back Michael Bush and strong safety Tyvon Branch.The Raiders have utilized the franchise tag in the recent past -- initially using it on linebacker Kamerion Wimbley last year before he re-signed a long-term deal, defensive tackle Richard Seymour in 2010 and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha in 2008.

But the Raiders, under a new general manager in Reggie McKenzie and a new coach in Dennis Allen, are in rebuild mode and find themselves a reported 11 million over the salary cap. As such, and with the relatively hefty price to slap a franchise tag on a player, it is unlikely the Raiders will use it this time around.Still, at first it seemed a no-brainer to use it on Bush, who stepped in for the injured Darren McFadden in Week 7 and rushed for a team-high 977 yards, averaging 4.3 yards per carry after becoming the starter. The projected franchise tender for running backs is expected to be between 7.778 million and 8.088 million, according to footballoutsiders.com, and that's a lot to pay for a backup running back. Even more to pay for two running backs as McFadden is due to make 5.65 million in base salary in 2012. UnlessSlapping the tag on Bush would seem to signal the Raiders A) don't trust McFadden to get through a season healthy, or B) would be open to trading McFadden. Then again, what could they really expect to get in return for an injury-prone, albeit electric when healthy, playmaker in McFadden?If the Raiders allow Bush to hit the open market when free agency begins on March 13, he's probably gone because while he would not get franchise tag money, he'd get starting running back money.Branch, meanwhile, has become the clubhouse leader in the race of most likely to be taggedshould the Raiders decide to use it.He enjoyed a breakout season in 2011, led the Raiders in tackles with 109, had an interception, was a Pro Bowl alternate and could become the focal point of the secondary under the direction of Allen, a former secondary coach in New Orleans.The projected tag for safeties is between 6.22 million and 6.459 million. Obviously, the Raiders would like to sign Branch to a long-term deal to offer salary cap relief and to lock in Branch as an anchor for the defense.Any other candidates? Only center Samson Satele and right tackle Khalif Barnes were full-time starters among the Raiders' 16 unrestricted free agents, along with Branch, and neither of them figure to get a tag worth some 9.5 million. Yes, for an offensive lineman.

Patriots pummel Pittsburgh, return to Super Bowl to face Falcons

Patriots pummel Pittsburgh, return to Super Bowl to face Falcons

BOX SCORE

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The Tom Brady redemption tour is headed to the Super Bowl.

After beginning the 2016 season suspended for four games for his role in the "Deflategate" scandal, the New England quarterback relentlessly carried the Patriots to an unprecedented ninth appearance in the title game, and his seventh. Brady threw for a franchise playoff-best 384 yards and three touchdowns in a 36-17 rout of the helpless Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday in New England's seventh consecutive AFC championship game.

The Patriots are early 3-point favorites heading to face Atlanta in two weeks in Houston, seeking their fifth NFL title with Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick as coach. Belichick's seventh appearance in a Super Bowl will be a record for a head coach.

Brady was banned by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell when New England (16-2) went 3-1 to open the schedule.

Since his return in Week 5, the only defeat came at home to Seattle, and Brady, 39, had one of the best seasons of a Hall of Fame-caliber career. He punctuated that in dreary weather similar to the 2014 conference title game that precipitated the deflated footballs investigation by flattening Pittsburgh's secondary.

Chris Hogan was his main weapon. The previously unheralded receiver found open spaces everywhere on the field against a leaky secondary. Hogan caught nine balls for 180 yards and two scores.

Top wideout Julian Edelman added eight receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown as Brady tied Joe Montana's playoff record with nine three-TD passing performances. Brady also had his 11th 300-yard postseason game, extending his NFL record, completing 32 of 42 throws.

Pittsburgh (13-6) lost star running back Le'Veon Bell late in the first quarter to a groin injury. It didn't seem to matter much in a record 16th conference title match for the Steelers, who made mistakes in every facet of the game. The franchise that has won the most Super Bowls, six, and the most postseason games, 36, never seemed likely to challenge in the misty rain.

Hogan's second touchdown came on a flea-flicker and he easily beat safety Mike Mitchell to the corner of the end zone. At that point, Hogan had seven catches for 117 yards and the first multi-touchdown game of his four-year career.

His first score made it 10-0 and came after Brady could have taken a nap before throwing, a common occurrence against a nonexistent pass rush. Hogan was all alone in the back of the end zone for the 16-yard score.

Pittsburgh had drawn to 10-6 on DeAngelo Williams' 5-yard run to cap an 84-yard drive. Veteran Williams is a nice security blanket in the backfield, though he's no Bell these days.

Still, he contributed on a 70-yard drive toward the end of the second quarter that appeared to be capped by Jesse James' TD reception. But video review showed James down at the 1, and the Steelers couldn't get into the end zone, Chris Boswell connecting for a 23-yard field goal.

The Steelers never threatened to get back into it.LeGarrette Blount punctuated the romp with a bruising 18-yard run on which he carried nearly the entire Pittsburgh defense with him. He then scored from the 1.

By the end, the crowd was chanting "Where is Roger?" and celebrating yet another Super Bowl trip for the Patriots.

BIG LEG:

Stephen Gostkowski's 31-yard field goal to open the scoring set a franchise record with 27, surpassing Adam Vinatieri's 26. Gostkowski is fourth all-time. He made a 47-yarder in the third quarter, a 26-yarder in the fourth, but he missed an extra point.

Boswell, who set an NFL mark with six field goals in the Steelers' 18-16 win at Kansas City last week, missed an extra point wide left and made a 23-yard kick.

INJURIES:

Steelers: Bell's early departure left him with 20 yards on six carries and no receptions.

Patriots: DB Nate Ebner left with a head injury.

UP NEXT:

After winning the AFC East with the conference's top record, New England defeated the Texans 34-16 and the Steelers to reach the Super Bowl. They will take on Atlanta, which beat Green Bay 44-21 for the NFC crown. Super Bowl 51 will be in Houston on Feb. 5; New England won the 2002 and 2005 Super Bowls after beating Pittsburgh for the AFC championship.

Reports: Former Raiders QB expected to join Cal's coaching staff

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Reports: Former Raiders QB expected to join Cal's coaching staff

It looks as though Marques Tuiasosopo is heading back to the Pac-12, again. The former Rose Bowl MVP and Washington quarterback has reportedly been added to the coaching staff at Cal under new head coach Justin Wilcox.

The news was first reported by Bruin Sports Online and later followed up by Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports, via Twitter.

Tuiasosopo is no stranger to coaching in the Pac-12. After spending 12 seasons in the NFL, Tuiasosopo returned to his alma mater to take on a role as assistant strength coach for the Washington Huskies in 2009.

After two years in that role, he joined the UCLA coaching staff as a graduate assistant in 2011 and took on a role as tight ends coach in 2012 under Jim Mora. The following year, in 2013, Tuiasosopo returned to Washington to be the quarterback coach to work for Steve Sarkisian. 

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