OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Oakland Raiders and safety Tyvon Branch have agreed to a new four-year contract, a person familiar with the decision said — a deal that gives the franchise financial flexible and the team’s leading tackler the stability he has wanted.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the deal had not been officially announced, said Branch was out of the country Saturday and both sides were working to finish the paperwork. CBS Sports, which first reported the deal, said the contract is worth $26.6 million with $17.1 million guaranteed.
A message left with Branch’s agent was not immediately returned.
Branch had signed his $6.2 million franchise tag tender May 7 and reported to offseason workouts. Both sides had until Monday’s deadline for franchise tagged players to reach an agreement on a long-term contract.
Getting Branch signed and with the team was important for the Raiders, who are counting on him to be one of the leaders under a new defense run by head coach Dennis Allen and coordinator Jason Tarver. The Raiders report to training camp in Napa July 29, and nothing will be holding Branch back from being in wine country.
Branch, a fourth-round pick in 2008, has started every game the past three seasons and led the Raiders in tackles the past two years. He also had 78 solo tackles, one sack, one interception, four passes defensed and one fumble recovery last season. Branch’s 327 total tackles over the past three seasons are the second-most of any NFL defensive back, trailing only Indianapolis’ Antoine Bethea, who has 340.
Branch also was much improved in pass coverage, cutting his completion percentage against from 67.4 percent in 2010 to 55.7 percent last season, according to STATS LLC, as the Raiders often used him as a cornerback in nickel packages.
Branch and free safety Michael Huff will anchor an overhauled secondary in Oakland this year. After years of running a defense premised on aggressive man coverage under late owner Al Davis, the Raiders are expected to use more blitzes and zone coverages this season.
The team let go of last season’s starting cornerbacks, Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson, and signed free agents Ron Bartell and Shawntae Spencer.
Antonio Gonzalez can be reached at: http://www.twitter.com/agonzalezAP
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.