ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) -The Oakland Raiders placed the exclusive franchise tag on star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha on Wednesday, keeping him from becoming an unrestricted free agent.
Asomugha will be guaranteed at least $9.465 million in 2008, but could still sign a long-term deal. Because Oakland used the designation on Asomugha, he's unable to negotiate with any other team. The deadline for designating franchise players is Thursday.
Asomugha could earn more money if the average salary of the top five cornerbacks in the league is higher at the end of the restricted free agency period. With Asante Samuel and Marcus Trufant among the top cornerbacks eligible for free agency, that remains a possibility.
Had the Raiders used the non-exclusive tag, Asomugha would have been locked in at $9.465 million but would have been free to negotiate with other teams. Oakland could have matched any offer or chosen to receive two first-round draft picks as compensation.
The price tag for free agent cornerbacks went up when the San Francisco 49ers signed Nate Clements to an $80 million, eight-year contract last offseason.
A first-round pick out of California in 2003, Asomugha struggled early in his career. He didn't intercept a single pass in his first three seasons, getting a reputation for his poor hands.
But he had a breakthrough season in 2006, intercepting eight passes and becoming one of the top cover cornerbacks in the league. Asomugha had only one interception last season as teams often shied away from throwing to his side of the field.
The Raiders play predominantly man-to-man defense on the outside, putting more pressure on their cornerbacks than most teams. That made keeping Asomugha a priority this offseason.
Oakland previously re-signed free agent running back Justin Fargas to a $12 million, three-year contract that guarantees him $6 million.
The Raiders had not used the franchise tag since placing it on cornerback Charles Woodson in 2004 and 2005.
A message left with Asomugha's agent, Steve Baker, wasn't immediately returned.

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