Oakland Raiders safeties Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch at training camp practice 2011 (photo by Levi Damien)
Though both of the Raiders' starting safeties had contract issues to deal with this offseason, it must feel pretty good to have two solid starting safeties heading into this season. Michael Huff restructured his deal and Tyvon Branch has signed his franchise tender and hopes to sign a long term deal soon. Safety indeed.
The team has their top four safeties all returning from last season. Along with Huff and Branch, Mike Mitchell is still under contract and Matt Giordano was brought back as well. The team will also give practice squad player Curtis Taylor another shot at making the roster.
The only newcomer in the group is undrafted free agent, Aaron Henry. He is best suited to play free safety.
Gone are Jerome Boyd and Hiram Eugene. Boyd was not offered a restricted free agent tender, making him instantly an unrestricted free agent. Eugene was lost in last year's camp with what looks to be a career ending hip injury. The team missed Eugene's contributions on special teams and will look to find a player who can fill his shoes.
Though there is a lot of comfortability in the starters and their primary backups, there is not a lot of depth for camp purposes. For that reason, I expect another safety to be signed this offseason. Although, another slight possibility would be to move one of their corners over. Strong safety is the position in need of depth and there are no strong safety fits among the cornerbacks on this team. Likewise, none of the free safeties would be well-suited to make the switch either.
Here is a look at the safety position for the Raiders and their depth chart heading into camp:
1. Tyvon Branch- The team's franchise player and leading tackler the past three seasons. Both he and the Raiders would like to agree to a long term deal before the season starts.
2. Mike Mitchell- This former surprise second round pick has never been able to get out from Branch's shadow. He is a situational player who also contributes on special teams.
1. Michael Huff- His contract numbers mean he will be the Raiders' starting free safety for a long time. He played some nickel corner last season but with the new regime, I suspect he will stick to playing his position from here on out.
2. Matt Giordano- Was the Raiders leader in interceptions last season (5). He was on the free agent market for a few days and surprisingly got no interest and re-signed with the Raiders. He is a ball hawk and will fit nicely in the Raiders' new zone defense.
3. Curtis Taylor- is a camp body for now but he hopes to make the team as a special teams guy who can fill in at safety in a pinch.
4. *Aaron Henry- One of the more exciting undrafted free agent signings for fans who saw his draft status putting him as a midround prospect. We will soon see who was right. He will certainly have every opportunity to make this team.
*The Raiders have not officially confirmed undrafted free agent signings.