Failing to lock up Branch won't just hurt the Raiders' defense

The Oakland Raiders have 4 days to agree on a long term deal with safety Tyvon Branch. If they don’t, they’ll have to move forward with the one-year franchise tag contract worth $6.2M.

Why do I feel like I’ve written this story before? Seems like I just wrote it yesterday.

Actually, the situation that the Raiders face with their strong safety falls under different circumstances than their NFC counterparts across the bay. Oakland General Manager Reggie McKenzie has faced much financial adversity putting together his 2012 squad thanks to a few albatross contracts on the books. There isn’t much cap space in the Raiders’ bank account to begin with, so McKenzie has to tread lightly if he wants to avoid more financial handcuffing.

The 49ers have cap space to play with when it comes to their dealings with Dashon Goldson; The Raiders may actually need Branch to agree to an extension if they want to sign another player. Oakland has expressed interest in free agent running back Cedric Benson, but in order to sign him, a long term deal with Branch would be ideal. It could reduce his cap hit in 2012 and make room to bring Benson aboard.

Along with their interest in the former Bengals half back, Oakland still hasn’t signed two of their draft picks, Tony Bergstrom and Juron Criner.

McKenzie described his talks with Branch as “ongoing.” Coming into his 5th year in the league, Branch has been a standout on the struggling Raiders defense. Last season he recorded 109 tackles (80 solo) along with 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery and 1 pick. In his 4-year career with the Raiders, Branch has racked up 347 tackles (267 solo), 6 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, 3 fumble recoveries and 3 picks. He’s not exactly a ball hawk, but he has been more than solid, considering he’s averaged 112 tackles/season since 2009 (he only played 8 games in 2008; he hasn’t missed a start since).

Although there’s no report as to what kind of money Branch is looking for, it would behoove the Raiders to get a deal done.  A long term would help solidify the team, both now and for the future.

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