By Steve Corkran
Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 at 2:41 pm in Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders guaranteed strong safety Tyvon Branch more than $17.1 million by converting his contract from a one-year deal to a four-year pact. On Wednesday, Branch said his peace of mind was just as important as the money.
“It gives you that (comfort) that you’re going to be around for the next couple of years,” Branch said in a conference call. “It definitely gives you a little more peace of mind. It’s just one of those things that you don’t have to worry about anymore. You know where you’re going to be.”
The Raiders placed the franchise tag on Branch early in the offseason. That guaranteed Branch slightly more than $6.2 million, or the average salary of the five highest-paid safeties last season.
That changed Saturday when the Raiders offered Branch a four-year contract, which he accepted and signed.
The transaction freed the Raiders from allotting the $6.2 million for this season’s salary cap and helped them clear almost $4 million in cap room.
Branch has started all 48 regular-season games the past three seasons. He performed at a Pro Bowl-caliber level last season, by some accounts. Even so, he said, he still hasn’t reached his potential.
“The sky’s the limit, as long as you work hard, put forth the effort and you want to become great,” Branch said. “The sky’s the limit. I’m just going to keep working and, hopefully, improve my game.”
Ultimately, Branch said, he is more concerned about helping the Raiders reach the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons.
“I don’t really have any personal goals,” Branch said. “I just want to win. Whatever it takes to win, I’m all about winning. That’s the most important thing; whatever it’s going to take for us to get in the big dance. We want to be a part of the tournament this year, get into the playoffs.”
In other news, the Raiders still haven’t signed rookies Tony Bergstrom and Juron Criner. Those are at the forefront of general manager Reggie McKenzie’s to-do list now that he has finalized Branch’s contract.
McKenzie likely won’t have any difficulty wrapping up deals for Bergstrom and Criner. He certainly should have both contracts finished in time for the start of training camp July 29.