The Oakland Raiders started the 2012 with a strong group of four safeties. However, Michael Huff was forced to move to cornerback due to injuries leaving Tyvon Branch and Matt Giordano as the starters with Mike Mitchell as a valuable back up. Looking toward 2013, Giordano and Mitchell are unrestricted free agents and Branch enters the biggest pay day of his four year contract extension signed last offseason.
Branch was franchise tagged before he and the Raiders agreed on a four year 26.6 million dollar deal. This season is he scheduled to make 6 million dollars in base salary and another 4.9 million is bonuses, which is a cap hit of 10.9 million dollars. That is a steep price for the salary cap tight Raiders, especially when Branch had a bit of a down year in 2012. He blew far too many tackles and got beat in coverage. However, the five year veteran still recorded 94 tackles and an interception this season. He has terrific instincts to locate the football and has the speed and power to finish tackles. He missed two games in 2012, which were the only two games he has missed in four seasons. The Raiders are counting on Branch to lead this defense as they enter 2013 and beyond. The team rewarded him with a big contract and now Branch must exceed high expectations.
Matt Giordano slid into the starting free safety position when Huff moved to cornerback. He finished the season with 51 tackles and two interceptions. One issue Giordano has is getting beat on big plays. Over and over Giordano would be out of position leading to big plays from opposing offenses. Whether it is miscommunication or mental mistakes, Giordano cost the Raiders in 2012. His biggest asset is his ability to intercept passes. He has picked off seven passes in two years. His contract is up with Oakland making him an unrestricted free agent. The Raiders will have a decision to make on Giordano. He made 825,000 in 2012, which is a number Oakland would like to stay near if they intend to resign the safety.
Another Raiders safety that will hit the free agent market in 2013 is Mike Mitchell. The strong safety played in all 16 games of 2012 and made two starts in paced of the injured Branch. Whenever Mitchell is on the field he brings intensity and energy. He is a big hitter with incredible strength and power. The four year veteran ended the 2012 season with 41 tackles and one sack. He still needs work in coverage, which is his main area of weakness, but is still an asset to the Raiders not only on defense but special teams. Because of their salary cap woes, the Raiders may have to choose between resigning Giordano and Mitchell.
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