The Raiders had two players headed into free agency this season that could justifiably had the franchise tag used on them. The first is strong safety Tyvon Branch, the second is back up running back Michael Bush. Both play major roles for the Raiders and both would likely be able to find high paying, starting roles elsewhere if they hit the free agent market.
News broke today that it is going to be Tyvon Branch who gets the franchise tag as opposed to Michael Bush. This is a rather smart move by new Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. Branch is a young and very talented safety who has been one of the Raiders most consistent defensive players since being drafted in 2008. Branch has continued to show improvement every season, and looks very much like he is on his way to being a pro bowl caliber player.
Bush, on the other hand, was with out a doubt, the best back up running back in the NFL last season. Bush has been a huge contributor for the Raiders as a result of Darren McFadden's perennial injury issues. However, despite that fact, he is still the back up to McFadden. Tagging bush would have meant vastly overpaying a back up. Something that is really not an option considering the Raiders current cap issues.
However, by not tagging Bush, the Raiders are admitting to the fact that they will be saying good bye to the best back up running back in the NFL. Bush likely has his sights set on a big contract and a starting gig, and justifiably so. It is highly unlikely that the Raiders will be able to compete with the offers that Bush will field in the free agent market as they will struggle to remain under the salary cap without overpaying for a back up.
Personally, I will be very sad to see Bush leave the Raiders, but I also understand that its just part of the game. Though it is not official that he is gone yet, I'd like to take a moment to wish him the best of luck on his new team, just as long as that team does not play in the AFC West.