By Steve Corkran
Monday, February 27th, 2012 at 3:01 pm in Oakland Raiders.
Teams have had a week to use the franchise tag on one of their own players. As of now, none has opted to go that route. The Raiders have until Monday to decide whether to use the tag on running back Michael Bush, safety Tyvon Branch or one of their other free-agents-to-be.
It’s worth noting that the Raiders wasted little time in using the franchise tag on Charles Woodson, Nnamdi Asomugha, Richard Seymour and Kamerion Wimbley in recent years.
That the Raiders haven’t used the tag on Bush by now makes it more likely that they won’t use it on any of their players this season.
To recap, Bush is slated to become an unrestricted free agent March 13, unless he is signed to an extension. That is unlikely, given Bush has stated that he wants to be a starter, and he realizes that isn’t apt to happen as long as Darren McFadden is on the Raiders roster.
So, the Raiders are faced with the prospect of using the franchise tag on Bush if they want to keep him in the fold for at least one more season. That would cost the Raiders $7.7 million.
New coach Dennis Allen talked about the difficulty in defending against the Raiders, with McFadden and Bush in the backfield, when Allen was the Broncos defensive coordinator last season.
Yet, he refused to tip his hand when asked about whether the Raiders intend to use the franchise tag on Bush.
“We’re going to look at all those options,” Allen said at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis last week. “I won’t get into the specifics of exactly what we’re going to do and exactly what our plan is going to be, but I will tell you this, we will look at all of our existing free agents, we’re going to look at all of our existing players that are under contract that have high numbers and we’re going to evaluate what we need to do to give the organization a chance to be successful.”
The Raiders are on the hook for $5.65 million to McFadden in 2012. In a perfect world, the Raiders would be paying Bush $7.7 million for a backup who wouldn’t get much more than 125 carries or so if McFadden is healthy all season.
Combine that with the fact the Raiders already are $11 million over the salary cap and also would need to free up even more room if they want to sign a couple of players in free agency.
Bush’s agent, Todd France, did not return a phone call.
If the Raiders opt to let Bush walk, that likely means a heightened role for second-year back Taiwan Jones, who played sparingly his rookie season, while stuck behind McFadden and Bush and battling through a hamstring injury.
Bush stands to make a ton of money if he makes it to free agency in two weeks. He likely would become the next talented back who spent the early part of his NFL career as a productive backup and cashed in once he hit free agency, along the lines of Priest Holmes, LaMont Jordan and Michael Turner.
Bush set career-highs in carries (256), rushing yards (977) and receptions (37) last season, largely in part to McFadden missing the final nine games with a foot sprain. He also finished with his worst yards per carry (3.8) in his four NFL seasons — he sat out his rookie season in 2007.
What the Raiders decide to do with Bush will go down as one of the first big moves in the Raiders careers of Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie.
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