Raiders safety Branch signs franchise tag

Published: Tuesday, May. 8, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 3C
Last Modified: Tuesday, May. 8, 2012 - 4:20 pm

ALAMEDA – Raiders safety Tyvon Branch signed his $6.2 million franchise tag tender Monday and reported to offseason workouts with the team.

The Raiders placed the tag on Branch on March 1, and he was unable to join the team until signing the tender or reaching a long-term contract.

The two sides still hope to reach a long-term deal before a July 15 deadline to give the Raiders more salary cap room and Branch more stability.

Getting Branch signed and with the team was important for the Raiders, who are counting on him to be one of the defensive leaders under a new defense run by head coach Dennis Allen and coordinator Jason Tarver.

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 80 solo tackles, one sack and one interception last 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.

The Raiders are still waiting for fullback Marcel Reece to sign his exclusive rights tender.

Bounties – Linebacker Jonathan Vilma and three other players suspended in the NFL's investigation of New Orleans' cash-for-hits bounty system challenged their punishments.

Vilma, named by the NFL as a ringleader of the operation, appealed his season-long suspension while the National Football League Players Association notified the league it was reserving the appeal rights of Saints defensive end Will Smith and those of ex-Saints Anthony Hargrove and Scott Fujita.

All four players and the union argue that no appeal should be heard before NFLPA grievances are resolved questioning NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell's authority to discipline the players and to hear their appeals.

• Hargrove has described in a sworn statement how he was told by ex-defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and current New Orleans assistant head coach Joe Vitt to deny the existence of a bounty program to NFL investigators.

In a document obtained Monday by the Associated Press, Hargrove acknowledges that he acted on Williams' and Vitt's instructions to "play dumb" if asked whether he was aware of bounties being placed on former Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre or any other player.

The declaration does not go into specifics, however, about just what Hargrove knew or did not know about the bounty program in New Orleans, and for that reason it has become a point of contention between the NFL and the NFLPA.

Saints – New Orleans signed defensive tackle Remi Ayodele. He previously played three seasons with New Orleans (2008-10).

Patriots – Offensive lineman Matt Light, 33, a three-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time Super Bowl champ, retired after 11 seasons.

• New England re-signed wide receiver Jabar Gaffney. He has played 10 NFL seasons, three with the Patriots (2006-08).

Vikings – Minnesota released kicker Ryan Longwell, a 15-year veteran, a little more than a week after Minnesota drafted Georgia kicker Blair Walsh in the sixth round.

• The Minnesota House has approved a plan to build a $975 million stadium for the team, but the amended plan that passed 73-58 would raise the Vikings' share to $532 million, or about 55 percent of construction costs. That knocks about $105 million off the state's contribution.

Broncos – Brian Xanders is out as general manager after three years and with a year left on his contract.

Broncos boss John Elway said the decision to part ways was made in a meeting between the two men.

Bills – Buffalo signed running back Fred Jackson to a two-year contract extension that's potentially worth $9 million.

Ravens – Baltimore sign- ed defensive tackle Ryan McBean, who will sit out the first six games of the season for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drug policy.

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