|This means RB Michael Bush could be headed for free agency. (Getty Images)|
By Ryan Wilson
The Raiders have informed safety Tyvon Branch that he will be franchised, the NFL Network's Jason La Canfora reported Thursday. Branch was the Raiders' leading tackler in 2011 and if the organization does tag him it will mean that running back Michael Bush, at one time thought to be a franchise-tag option, will hit free agency unless the team re-signs him (Bush was fifth in our Eye on Football free-agent RB rankings).
As CBSSports.com Rapid Reporter Eric Gilmore explains, Branch can expect to earn $6.2 million under the franchise tag, which is $2.2 million below the going rate for franchised safeties in 2011. The new collective bargaining agreement comes with a new formula for determining the position-by-position tag value.
Branch was selected in the fourth round of the 2008 draft out of Connecticut. In related news: he ran a 4.31 40 at the combine. (We were shocked too.) His pre-draft scouting report explains how the college cornerback ended up as an NFL safety:
"Despite his impressive 40 time and success as a kick returner, Branch struggles changing directions. An instinctive, physical defensive back, Branch is best suited to playing cornerback in a two-deep scheme or making the transition to free safety."
Turns out, it was the right move. Branch has started every game since 2009, and had 109 tackles, four passes defended, a sack and an interception last season. And CBSSports.com's Pete Prisco writes that Branch "should have been on the Pro Bowl team last year. He had an impressive season at a weak position in the NFL. It makes sense for the Raiders to keep him."
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