The Denver Broncos hold their final four days of on the field OTAs (offseason training activities) this week, and that will be followed by the mandatory mini-camp that will run June 10-13. After that the offseason portion of the 2013 season will be fairly complete, and the players and coaches will enjoy a six week break before training camp begins in late July.
It’s been a very productive offseason by almost anybody’s standards, but it is not quite done. There is still one thing that John Elway and his staff must find a way to accomplish between now and the start of camp.
Left tackle Ryan Clady has said he will sign his franchise tender and will play under that if necessary, but the Broncos do not want him playing with that over his head anymore than he does. A franchise tender or tag is a way for teams to keep a player who would otherwise be an unrestricted free agent. If the Broncos and Clady cannot agree to a deal, the left tackle would play on a one-year contract.
Players do not like the franchise tag because there is no long-term security, and if they get injured they lose out on future earnings. The Broncos want to lock up Clady to a long-term deal but want to make sure that his shoulder is okay from an injury suffered last season. It should also be noted that the Broncos offered Clady a long-term deal before the start of last season that would have made him one of the top five paid left tackles in the NFL, but Clady turned it down.
The Broncos generally and Elway specifically know the importance of a quality left tackle when you have a quarterback like Peyton Manning, and they are not about to let just anyone protect his blindside.
History tells us that the Broncos will get something done with Clady before training camp, and everyone will be happy. When Elway first took the job as Vice-President of Football Operations, cornerback Champ Bailey was a free agent and everyone thought he was gone. The Broncos were coming off of a 4-12 season and the future looked bleak for a player who had everything else but a championship. Elway got Bailey to buy into his vision and they agreed to a long-term deal.
Last summer, kicker Matt Prater was designated with the franchise tag and most people thought he would play the 2012 season under that tag. Just before camp, however, the Broncos and Prater agreed to a new deal. Now a kicker, even a good one like Prater, is not the same as a left tackle like Clady, but it reinforces the track record of Elway getting things done.
There are some difficult negotiations between the Broncos and Clady coming in the immediate future, but I would be surprised if a long-term deal is not announced sometime in the middle of July. The Broncos have done everything right this offseason, and they know how vital Clady is to the offense. It will get done in time for the season and then Clady will give Manning all the time he needs to pick apart defenses.
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