Giving Branch franchise tag a smart move

AFC West readers are getting their wish. NFL.com is reporting the Oakland Raiders have informed safety Tyvon Branch that he will receive the franchise tag. That all but guarantees Branch will remain in Oakland in 2012.

The franchise tag for safeties is worth about $6.2 million. If Branch doesn’t sign a long-term deal, he will become an unrestricted free agent again next season unless he is given the franchise tag again.

The Raiders are choosing to give Branch the franchise tag instead of running back Michael Bush. That is the right call. Branch is a starter and Bush is a backup, although he is a key backup. Bush will very likely sign elsewhere in free agency. The Raiders have other needs and will have spending limitations.

Yet, it was crucial to keep Branch. He is one of the better players on a defense that is likely to see a lot of changes this season. Branch will be a strong anchor.

A fourth-round pick in 2008, Branch has emerged as an above-average safety and a tackling machine. He is not without faults, but new Oakland head coach Dennis Allen, who is a secondary specialist, should be able to improve Branch down the road. Despite the Raiders' salary-cap issues, keeping Branch was the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Chiefs will give receiver Dwayne Bowe the franchise tag. The Chargers are very much leaning against giving receiver Vincent Jackson the franchise tag and will likely try to re-sign him after free agency starts. The Broncos are working on a long-term contract with kicker Matt Prater, but if a deal isn't reached he may be franchised by Monday’s deadline.

UPDATE: The Raiders have announced they have given the franchise tag to Branch.