Report: Murphy traded to Panthers


Wide receiver Louis Murphy, the team’s most productive wide receiver in 2009 and 2010, has been traded to the Carolina Panthers, according to the Twitter account of Yahoo Sports! reporter Jason Cole.

There have been no terms announced as yet, nor have the Raiders or Panthers confirmed the deal.

Murphy, who was the keynote speaker on behalf of the Raiders Saturday at a youth sports clinic at Kezar Stadium in San Francisco, struggled last season after undergoing sports hernia surgery late in training camp.

With the ascension of Denarius Moore in 2011, the quantum leap in performance by Darrius Heyward-Bey, along with strong showings by fifth-round draft pick Juron Criner and undrafted free agent Rod Streater this offseason, Murphy’s grip on a roster spot was tenuous.

Murphy caught 75 passes for 1,130 yards in his first two season after being a fourth-round draft pick out of Florida, the most of any of the Raiders wide receivers.

The Raiders made one previous deal with Carolina this offseason, getting running back Mike Goodson in exchange for offensive lineman Bruce Campbell.


Branch talks about new contract, future


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.


Raiders confirm Branch signing


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.


Raiders on the clock with Branch


First-year general manager Reggie McKenzie described talks between the Raiders and strong safety Tyvon Branch’s agent about a long-term contract as ongoing. The two sides have less than a week to get past the open-dialogue phase.
Players who receive the franchise-tag designation have until July 16 to sign a long-term deal or else they are locked into a one-year deal until the regular season ends.
The Raiders slapped the franchise tag on Branch earlier this offseason, which Branch signed. That obligates the Raiders to pay Branch $6.2 million this season.
So, why the urgency to get a long-term deal? Several reasons come into play.
First, Branch would like the security of knowing where he’s going to play beyond 2012, as well as the potential to bank a sizable signing bonus. From the Raiders standpoint, they wouldn’t mind locking up a player in his prime and freeing up much-needed salary-cap room.
As it stands, the Raiders are less than $1 million under the salary cap. Branch’s $6.2 million already has been accounted for. So, if the Raiders sign him to a long-term deal, they could free up, say, as much as $5.5 million.
If the two sides aren’t able to hammer out a deal within the next week, they could revisit the issue at season’s end. The clock is ticking.