The Oakland Raiders have placed the franchise tag on safety Tyvon Branch to keep him off the open market in free agency.
General manager Reggie McKenzie announced the decision on Thursday, saying he hoped the team could work out a long-term deal with Branch before next season. The franchise tag number for safeties is expected to be about $6.2 million next season.
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.
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.