Broncos apply franchise tag to Ryan Clady

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos locked up the face of their offensive line for at least one year after giving left tackle Ryan Clady the franchise tag.

The Denver Broncos will be placing the franchise tag on Pro-Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady, according to ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Clady was widely considered one of the more obvious targets for the franchise tag, and Jon Elway has repeatedly said he wishes to sign Clady to a contract this offseason. With the tag applied, it gives the two sides the space to come to an agreement. The tag is expected to cost the Broncos $9.6 million. Clady made $3.5 million this past season.

Elway told the Denver Post on Friday that the Broncos would tag Clady and that they would be working on a contract extension this offseason as well.

"We'd like to work something out, like we did last year," Elway said, referring to contract negotiations with Clady that broke off before training camp. "Things have changed a little bit because he's coming off a shoulder surgery. But we like Ryan. We like him a lot as a player."

Clady has made three Pro Bowls with the Broncos and hasn't missed a single game since being drafted, despite having major knee surgery in 2010. He underwent successful surgery this offseason on a damaged rotator cuff in his right shoulder, an injury he dealt with towards the end of the season.

As Mile High Report points out, the franchise tag also allows the Broncos a little more leeway in negotiating a new contract. This is the second major surgery that Clady has had in three years, and before the team puts forth a hefty chunk of change, they would like to see how he recuperates this offseason. Clady will most likely command close to $10 million a season, in line with the league's top left tackles.

The Broncos want a longer period of time to negotiate with Clady to come up with a deal that is fair to both while at the same time hedging against possible relapse in play due to injuries.

The Broncos tried to work out an extension on Clady's contract before the beginning of the 2012 season but couldn't come to an agreement, with Clady reportedly rejecting a $50 million contract with $28 million guaranteed. His 2012 year reminded the Broncos can ill-afford to lose him. Peyton Manning's stellar year as the quarterback of Denver owes at least a little bit to Clady, who didn't allow a sack until Week 12.

He finished fourth in Pro Football Focus' offensive tackle rankings, tying for four on their pass blocking efficiency ratings and only allowing one sack and six hits from Manning's left side. Football Outsiders ranked the Broncos second in pass protection in 2012, and they were the second best team at protecting their quarterback, only allowing 21 sacks. Manning had the second-best sack percentage at 3.48 percent, with only his brother Eli Manning enjoying better security.

Clady was the Broncos' first-round pick in the 2008 draft out of Boise State. He was the highest selected player in Boise State history and the highest selected offensive lineman by the Broncos since Chris Hinton in 1983. Clady immediately paid dividends for the Broncos faith in him.

He finished third in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting behind Matt Ryan and Chris Johnson in 2008. In 2009, he set the NFL record for most games to start a NFL career without giving up full sack.

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