Will the Raiders use the franchise tag?


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.

Cooper or Crabtree? Raiders dare opponents to pick poison

Cooper or Crabtree? Raiders dare opponents to pick poison

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Jacksonville Jaguars tried to take Raiders receiver Amari Cooper out of Sunday’s game. Sticky corner Jalen Ramsey shadowed the second-year pro, and was effective making quarterback Derek Carr look the other way.

It wasn’t that Ramsey dominated every play. Carr simply had more favorable options available.

Michael Crabtree was the best one. He turned the Jaguars game on its ear with a touchdown catch, a third-down conversion and a massive bomb caught over his shoulder for 56 yards.

Carr targeted Crabtree 11 times in Jacksonville, with eight completions for 96 yards and a touchdown.

Teams scheming against Cooper operate at their own peril this season, because that typically leaves Crabtree in a juicy matchup.

That was the case in Week 7, but it doesn’t always work that way.

Opponents also fear Crabtree, and for good reason. He has been clutch in the season’s first half, likely playing the best football of his career.

The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t want Crabtree to have a big day in Week 6, and put top-flight cornerback Marcus Peters – who can’t keep up with Cooper’s speed – on his trail. Crabtree was largely negated in that effort, though Cooper dominated to the tune of 10 receptions for 129 yards on 13 targets. Crabtree, by far Carr’s most frequent receiver, was only thrown to four times.

Carr’s message to future opponents from those two games: pick your poison.

“You have to always be ready for everything, and I think that our staff does an amazing job of giving me a lot of options for those instances,” Carr said at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, before Wednesday's practice. “If they’re going to take away (Cooper) this game, we have to get the other guys going. If they’re going to take ‘Crab’ away, we have to get the other guys going.

“What’s great about that (position group) is they’re all good with it. We just want to win. That’s what it comes down to, how can we push the ball down the field… I think our staff does an amazing job of filling that kind of stuff out if they’re trying to take one or the other away.”

Fluctuating target counts can be frustrating for receivers, who are often considered divas demanding the football at all times. The Raiders don’t have those personalities, a luxury quarterbacks dream about.

“We’re together, man,” Crabtree said. “We’re trying to win by any means. We know what’s at stake and I feel like we’re doing everything it takes to win.”

Sometimes, that means being unselfish. Ignoring stats can be tough for wideouts, but that isn’t an issue with two top receivers under contract an extended stretch.

Cooper and Crabtree have different playing styles and personality types, yet yin and yang in this Raiders offense without issue.

“We complement each other well,” Cooper said. “Having multiple options is really great to have, especially guys that threaten defenses.”

Fan dies after falling while leaving Broncos game

Fan dies after falling while leaving Broncos game

DENVER -- Authorities say a fan has died after falling 60 feet at the Denver Broncos' stadium after a game on Monday night.

Stadium Management Co., which operates Sports Authority Field at Mile High, said the fan fell over a railing.

The medical examiner's office said Tuesday the man was transported to a hospital and pronounced dead. He was identified as 36-year-old Jason Coy.

Denver police say he was sitting on a railing when he fell. Witnesses and emergency responders immediately tried to help.

The incident occurred near the north end of the stadium following the Broncos' game against the Houston Texans.

In a statement, the Broncos said the team is "reviewing this tragic incident and will continue to maintain all necessary safety measures for our fans."