Updated 6:55 p.m. ET on Thursday, March 1
The Raiders placed the franchise tag on SS Tyvon Branch, keeping the safety in the Silver and Black for at least one more season.
Branch, who was set to be an unrestricted free agent, will be given a one-year deal for approximately $6.2 million. Oakland GM Reggie McKenzie will look to sign Branch to a long-term deal and has until July 16 to do so before the franchise contract takes effect.
"We are pleased that Tyvon will return to the Raiders in 2012," said McKenzie. "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 25-year-old safety has proven to be one of the Raiders' top defensive players. He has registered 100 or more tackles in each of the past three seasons, starting all 16 games in all of them. In 2011, he led the team in tackles with 106, adding in one sack, one interception and one fumble recovery.
Oakland currently is over the expected salary cap and will have to restructure some player contracts or shed some salaries by the time free agency begins on March 13.
The way we see it
McKenzie, in his first season as the Raiders' general manager, had little choice but to franchise Branch. As one of the team's only young playmakers on defense, especially in the secondary, the front office had to make sure he stayed in Oakland. With several teams looking for help at safety, Branch's price tag would likely have been out of the Raiders' range had he hit the open market.
The move has a reverse impact on the team's offense. By giving the franchise tag to Branch, it means that RB Michael Bush will be an unrestricted free agent on March 13. Though most expected the tag to go the safety, some felt that locking up Bush — who has been a reliable backup to the often-injured Darren McFadden in recent years — would better serve the team. Now the Raiders are going to have to try and re-sign him while competing with every other suitor, with limited flexibility to do so because of their cap situation.