Branch franchised, Bush walking?
In his second major move as new Raiders general manager, Reggie McKenzie placed the franchise tag on strong safety Tyvon Branch this week. Branch, entering his fifth season, has become a defensive star for the Raiders and has become a model of consistency for the oft-maligned Raiders secondary.
Branch is guaranteed approximately $6.2 million for 2012 — the average of the five highest-paid safeties last season.
In addition to his impressive production – at least 78 tackles in each of the past three seasons – Branch hasn’t missed a game due to injury since his rookie year. His ability to stay healthy along with continued improvement has made him a favorite of many — including the new GM.
“We are pleased that Tyvon will return to the Raiders in 2012,” said Oakland Raiders General Manager Reggie 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.”
It’s important to note that McKenzie is studying players and making decisions with no previous bias or influence from others. While Al Davis was constantly seen as a menacing, befuddling fool when it came to recent transactions, McKenzie is coming in with a clean slate, fresh optimism and an impressive pedigree when it comes player evaluation.
In McKenzie’s eyes Branch is seen as one of the best in the league to play his position, and that definitely means something. The Raiders for so long were seen through Al Davis’ hourglass — one of the Raiders “tradition” and sheer arrogance. So, for the new GM — who vowed to have “his guys” in the organization — to put the exclusive franchise tag on Branch should be a re-assuring move for the Nation.
It’s clear the Raiders are cleaning house and the Nation should have no gripes. The team previously constructed was in no way a Super Bowl contender, and McKenzie is making the necessary moves for the franchise in order to better this team both on and off the field.
The tagging of Branch most likely means the end of the Michael Bush era in Oakland. Bush was the only other logical choice for the franchise tag and was a favorite of many. He proved to be invaluable to the team when Darren McFadden was out with injury (which was quite often if you didn’t notice).
Bush will be looking for a starting gig and starting running back money elsewhere, two elements that the Raiders simply can’t give him. A fourth round pick out of Louisville, Bush proved to be one of Al Davis’ best picks of the last decade. After breaking his leg in college Bush fell all the way to the 100th overall pick.
Since the drafting of Darren McFadden the backup running back spot has been one of the most important positions on the team. Those reigns are now in the hands of Taiwan Jones, a promising but unproven young back who will now be called on to replace DMC when necessary.
Besides being able to jump out of pool backwards and running a 4.25 forty time, Jones has shown flashes of becoming a serviceable NFL back with the ability to catch out of the backfield and make that game-breaking play.
Jones got extensive time in the Raiders pre-season matchup against the New Orleans Saints last season and impressed on a national stage. 13 carries, 81 yards and this 22 yard touchdown run later the Raiders officially had a promising player on their hands.
While the status of Michael Bush, Michael Huff and Kamerion Wimbley still are yet to be determined, the move to franchise tag Tyvon Branch was a smart and necessary one for the Raiders. Assuring players and fans alike that the most consistent force on the defensive end will be back is a good step towards becoming a stable NFL contender.
Expect no shortage of moves in the coming months for McKenzie and Co.
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