Held as the gold standard for safety contracts, the deal signed by Michael Griffin this offseason was thought to be holding up both the Raiders and 49ers contract talks with their respective free agent safeties. Ultimately, Branch’s deal guarantees more money over four years than Michael Griffin’s deal does over five. Still, Branch’s earnable salary is less than that of Griffin.
Given that Branch is heralded as one of the league’s top, young safeties, this deal is a bargain for the Raiders.
According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), Branch was the best run-defender at his position in 2011. In 89 attempts, Branch missed only six tackles last season. As Christopher Hansen of the Bleacher Report points out, “No other safety with over 60 attempts had a better tackling efficiency than Branch.”
Hansen also believes that Branch is one of the better safeties against the pass. Sam Monson of PFF doesn’t disagree.
After reviewing game film of Branch’s shutdown performance against the Patriots Rob Gronkowski, Monson had this to say:
In a league where players like Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham are becoming unstoppable forces as teams struggle to match up with them, everybody is looking for a safety with the kind of coverage skills to be matched up one-on-one and win. It turns out the Raiders have exactly what everybody is looking for in the shape of Tyvon Branch, who just might be the best man-coverage safety in the league.
Though Dashon Goldson showed well statistically, he did not perform well. This is a significant difference. PFF ranked Goldson as the 14th best defender on the 49ers and one of the worst safeties in the NFL last season:
His overall grade of -8.1 sees him rank 69th out of 87 qualifying safeties (who played 295 snaps or more), seeing him rank alongside such luminaries as Jordan Babineaux of Tennessee, Charlie Peprah of Green Bay, and Matt Giordano of Oakland. Players that you would characterize as “journeymen”, not the type you would consider placing the franchise tag on in ordinary situations.
Of the safeties who have played 800-plus snaps this year, he’s surrendered the eighth-highest completion percentage. He allowed four touchdowns this year (tied for fifth among safeties) despite the amazing front seven he has in front of him. He’s tied for sixth in penalties among safeties this year. If he played behind a mediocre front seven, he would be exposed.
Last season, Goldson was meet by a soft free agent market, as teams were not convinced that Goldson could be anything other than an average safety. This season, it appears to be more of the same.
As of Friday, a source told CSNBayArea’s Matt Maiocco that Goldson and the 49ers “have not made any progress toward a multi-year contract.” If the aforementioned rankings are correct, 49er fans better hope progress remains stalled.