With his newly applied $9.828 million exclusive-rights franchise tag, all-pro offensive tackle Ryan Clady almost certainly will be back to protect Peyton Manning's blind side this year.
Clady, 26, would rather have a multiyear contract at a value reflective of the NFL's top left tackles. But the tag he received Friday from the Broncos isn't all bad. For starters, it marks a 280 percent raise from the $3.5 million salary he received in 2012, when he was named to his second all-pro team and third Pro Bowl.
In return, the Broncos all but kept Clady off the free-agent market that opens March 12. Other teams can still try to sign Clady, but the Broncos would have the right to match any offer. And if they decline to match, they would receive two first-round draft picks from the team that signed Clady.
In the NFL, such restrictions are considered prohibitive for all but superstar quarterbacks. So there's little doubt Clady will be playing for the Broncos this season — if he's healthy enough. He suffered a torn rotator cuff in his right shoulder late in the 2012 season, though he played through the injury in the Broncos' 38-35, double-overtime playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens in Denver on Jan. 12.
Counting playoff games, Clady has started all 83 games for the Broncos since he was their first-round draft pick, No. 12 overall, in 2008. The streak includes all 16 games in 2009, when Clady played despite coming off major surgery to repair a knee injury that he suffered while playing basketball.
Clady and the Broncos hope to work out a multiyear contract extension before training camp starts in late July, but serious negotiations may not commence until the Boise State product is further along in his recovery. Absent a multiyear contract extension, Clady isn't expected to attend the team's offseason workout program. If the Broncos go another year without an agreement, they could place a second franchise tag on Clady for the 2014


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