By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, July 14th, 2012 at 7:48 pm in Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders tied up one loose end heading into training camp by agreeing to terms with franchise free agent strong safety Tyvon Branch to a reported four-year deal worth $17.6 million in guaranteed money and a maximum value of $28 million.
The Raiders confirmed the deal Saturday evening, without referring to terms of the contract, after it had been reported earlier by CBS Sports and the NFL Network.
Had Branch not received a multi-year deal by Monday, he would have played for the approximately $6.2 million figure as a franchise free agent and then faced free agency again next year.
According to Scout.com, citing league sources, Branch gets a $5.6 million signing bonus and will be paid $16.1 million over the first two years of the deal.
Branch’s signing will free up money under a tight salary cap for the Raiders to bring in an additional player or players if desired.
They have yet to announce deals with third-round draft pick Tony Bergstrom, a guard out of Utah, or wide receiver Juron Criner, a wide receiver from Arizona, although the Raiders had room to bring in both players whether Branch signed a multi-year deal or not.
With Branch’s deal netting as much as $4 million in cap savings, speculation will immediately turn to veteran running back Cedric Benson. Although unconfirmed by the club, Benson has been speculated as a heavy-legged successor to the departed Michael Bush.
Benson, 29, has gained 3,429 yards over the last three seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, although he has averaged under 4 yards per carry in each of the last two years.
Entering his fifth season out UConn, Branch, who has at team-high 337 tackles over the past three seasons, was much improved in coverage in 2011 after being occasionally victimized in 2009 and 2010.
Should Branch, 25, blossom in the new defensive system as installed by coach Dennis Allen and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, Branch will come at a bargain rate considering what he would have been worth a year from now.