By Steve Corkran
Monday, March 4th, 2013 at 1:31 pm in Oakland Raiders.
The Raiders opted against using the franchise tag on any of their prospective unrestricted free agents before the window closed Monday afternoon.
Last season, the Raiders placed the franchise-tag designation on strong safety Tyvon Branch as a means of protecting themselves from losing one of their key starters.
Ultimately, Branch signed a long-term contract that superseded the one-year tender as the Raiders franchise player. Players who are franchise-tagged are guaranteed the average salary of the five-highest-paid players at their position from the previous season.
Not applying the franchise tag on any of their 17 prospective unrestricted free agents doesn’t mean the Raiders aren’t interested in bringing back some or all of those players.
They have until March 12 to hammer out contracts with key players such as linebacker Philip Wheeler, tight end Brandon Myers and defensive lineman Desmond Bryant before other teams are allowed to make offers.
Also, the Raiders were only $1.45 million under the salary cap limit as of Monday morning, while still needing to account for the salaries of five more players before free agency starts Mar. 12.
Using the franchise tag would have made reaching cap compliance even more difficult. The Raiders can use up less cap room for 2013 by signing some or all of the aforementioned players to long-term deals.
Several top-notch players such as wide receiver Wes Welker, cornerback Aqib Talib, free safety Dashon Goldson and tight end Jared Cook also weren’t franchise-tagged by their respective teams.
Players such as those are intriguing prospects for the Raiders to consider if those players remain unsigned once free agency starts.
For now, though, the Raiders primary focus is freeing up enough money so that they can re-sign some of their own players before they are eligible for free agency.