When Reggie McKenzie and the Raiders signed star safety Tyvon Branch to a four-year, $26 million deal last week, it was not only a case of the team locking up its best defensive player to a long-term reasonable deal, but also a message to the rest of the league and to its own players. That message is, "We are committed to running this franchise the right way. If you perform for us, we will reward you. If you do not, you will be gone." McKenzie has already jettisoned many of the Raiders' more overpaid players including Kamerion Wimbley and Stanford Routt.
Tyvon Branch is clearly the leader of the Raiders' defense and deserved this sort of contract. Not only was McKenzie able to sign Branch through his prime, he was also able to position the team to have more salary-cap room. This will be important should the team decide to sign another free agent to back up its current starters. Depth along the offensive line and in the linebacking corps is thin and more players are needed.
McKenzie was able to deftly accomplish all he set out to do. Unlike during the days of Al Davis, the team is no longer in salary cap hell, and will no longer be handing out massive contracts for minimal production. The Raiders are being run like a model franchise due to the efforts of McKenzie and the rest of the front office. There is little doubt now that McKenzie was the right choice and the best possible successor as GM to Mr. Davis. If coach Dennis Allen and the rest of the coaching staff perform as well as McKenzie has so far, the Raiders are positioned to be a major power in the AFC for years to come.