The Denver Broncos locked up Peyton Manning’s blindside protector Sunday, signing left tackle Ryan Clady to a five-year deal worth up to $57.5 million.
The Broncos and Clady have been at odds over a long-term contract for more than a year. Had he not signed by 4 p.m. today, he would have played under a one-year, $9.823 million deal because of the franchise tag.
Instead, Clady has a deal that guarantees him at least $33 million and should keep him in Denver through the end of Manning’s playing days.
It’s a better deal than the one the tackle turned down last season, when the guarantees the Broncos offered came in at about half of what he’ll make under his new contract.
There are seven remaining NFL players with the franchise tag who are facing today’s deadline for a long-term deal, including Buffalo Bills safety Jairus Byrd. If no deal is reached, Byrd and the others can only sign for one year, and they won’t be able to renegotiate that deal until the 2013 season is over.
The Bills and Byrd have not done much talking in recent days, according to reports.
The missed deadline would not force Byrd to accept the franchise-tag figure of $6.916 million for safeties, as he could agree to a deal above or below that number.
He also is not obligated to report to the team, since he is a free agent and does not have a contract.
Byrd does have to sign a contract with an NFL team by Nov. 12. Otherwise, he will be ineligible to play until the 2014 season.
The other “franchised” players facing today’s deadline are defensive tackles Henry Melton of the Chicago Bears and Randy Starks of the Miami Dolphins, defensive end Michael Johnson of the Cincinnati Bengals, Dallas Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer, Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Branden Albert and Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee.
Clady, a first-round draft pick in 2008, is still recovering from surgery to his right shoulder and is expected to miss the start of training camp, which begins July 25.
If he returns to full health, it will resolve one of Denver’s many issues on the offensive line.
Left guard Zane Beadles was the only starting offensive lineman to come out of last season unscathed. Orlando Franklin (toe, shoulder), Chris Kuper (ankle) and J.D. Walton (knee) also needed operations, and of the three, only Franklin was at full health during team minicamps this spring.
The Broncos signed Dan Koppen to fill in at center for Walton, who isn’t expected back until midseason. Their biggest free-agency signing outside of Wes Welker was right guard Louis Vasquez. If Kuper recovers from his second surgery in as many years, he’ll likely compete for a backup spot.