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Posted: Thursday March 1, 2012 7:14PM ; Updated: Thursday March 1, 2012 7:23PM

Raiders franchise safety Branch

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ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -- The Oakland Raiders placed the franchise tag on safety Tyvon Branch on Thursday, guaranteeing him about $6.2 million for 2012 to keep him off the open market in free agency.

"We are pleased that Tyvon will return to the Raiders in 2012," Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a statement. "Tyvon is a talented, productive player who we hope will be wearing the Silver and Black for many years to come. We will continue to work on a long-term deal to make that happen."

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 had 78 solo tackles, one sack, one interception, four passes defensed and one fumble recovery last season. He 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.

The move to lock up Branch means running back Michael Bush will likely be able to test the free agent market starting March 13. Bush led the Raiders with 977 yards rushing last season, stepping into the starting role when Darren McFadden went down with a season-ending foot injury. Bush has expressed interest in becoming a starter and might leave Oakland to do it.

Copyright 2012 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
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