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.
The Raiders were pretty darn good last season. A 12-4 record proved that point. There was plenty of talent on a team with a penchant for high-wire acts in victory that masked the fact there were holes on the roster.
They need to be filled for the Raiders to improve in 2017, and new players will be imported through free agency and the draft.
Left tackle Donald Penn is excited to see who gets added, but said there’s no doubt talent is coming to Oakland. He speaks for Raiders players, who have faith that general manager Reggie McKenzie will make the right moves.
“Things that Reggie has done in past drafts have been great, and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings back towards us,” Penn said recently during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network. “We can’t wait to get back out there healthy. We’re ready to hit the football world with a storm.”
While new guys are coming, a few might head out. The Raiders have several unrestricted free agents. Penn wants to keep his guys around – he mentioned running back Latavius Murray by name -- though he has some ideas for McKenzie’s checklist.
The Raiders don’t need much with most key players under contract – the Raiders should be less active in free agency over past offseasons – but a few key components could put this team over the top.
“If we stick to Reggie’s plan, we’ll be great,” Penn said. “I know he’s going to have a great draft, add a couple little pieces here and there – maybe somebody in the secondary to help out a little bit.
"On offense, you could always use a weapon. Maybe we get another receiver to take (pressure off Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper), but we have a good nucleus right now.”
Derek Carr is on the mend. The Raiders franchise quarterback had surgery to repair his fibula shortly after he broke it in a Week 16 victory over Indianapolis, and is recovering well during the offseason.
Carr insisted on intense rehab this winter in an attempt – however unlikely it may have been – to return should the Raiders have played in the Super Bowl. It slowed to a normal pace after the Raiders' loss at Houston in the postseason’s opening round, but those in contact with him say he’s making strides.
Left tackle Donald Penn was recently in contact with Carr, and provided an update on Monday during an in-studio appearance on NFL Network.
“I texted Derek (a few) days ago checking in,” Penn said, “and he said he’s almost 100 percent.”
Surgically-repaired broken filbulas take significant time to heal, and the Raiders plan to be conservative with their MVP candidate during the offseason. Derek Carr’s brother and NFL Network analyst David Carr, who was on set with Penn on Monday, said Derek could be back for offseason work.
“He’s doing good,” David Carr said. “He’s walking around already, stretching it out. You can’t do a lot for the bone, right? But he’s going to be back. He’s going to get a whole full offseason in. That’s going to be the best part.”