The annual deadline for signing franchise players to multi-year deals arrives on Monday, July 15. After that day, none of the eight tagged players can sign long-term deals with their current teams until after the end of the regular season.
To date, six of them have signed their one-year franchise tenders. Two of them, Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady and Bills safety Jairus Byrd, are unsigned.
With the franchise amounts not yet reflecting the recent sharp downturn in the free-agent market, it’s now harder to do long-term deals when a player has a high (relatively speaking) guaranteed salary for the coming season. As a result, it won’t be a surprise if none of them get a long-term deal done before July 15.
Of them, arguably the most likely to ink a long-term deal is Clady, the man most responsible for keeping Peyton Manning’s neck and its quartet of surgeries in one piece. Per a league source, it’s not impossible — but there is a “lot of work to be done” to make it happen.
On the surface, the recent DUI arrests of director of player personnel Matt Russell and pro personnel director Tom Heckert would make it harder to do a deal with Clady, since the organization is otherwise distracted right now. At a deeper level, however, a franchise dealing with the left-right drunk-driving body blow could be inclined to give Clady what he wants in order to turn the page toward something far more positive.
So what does Clady want? That’s not known. In today’s NFL, it seems that only the quarterbacks get huge money. Still, roughly 30 players are making $12 million or more per year, even with the salary cap growing at a very, very slow rate.
And beyond the quarterback position, players don’t get much more important than left tackle. Three of the top four picks in this year’s draft — Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel, Lane Johnson — are tackles.
It’s still an uphill climb to work out a long-term contract, with Clady’s offseason shoulder surgery likely making it harder for the Broncos to make the leap of faith. Still, if they don’t sign him by Monday, chances are they won’t see him until only a few days before Week One, which could make it even harder to keep Peyton Manning’s neck and its quartet of surgeries in one piece.