The Steelers have placed the franchise tag on offensive tackle Max Starks, a move that keeps him from becoming an unrestricted free agent and guarantees him $8.451 million in salary. His salary is the average of the top five offensive linemen in the NFL for the 2009 season.
The Steelers will try to work out a long-term contract with Starks, a No. 3 draft choice in 2004, who started 11 games last season at left tackle.
The franchise tag placed on Starks wasn't exclusive, meaning he is permitted to talk with other NFL teams about a deal. However, if he signs with another team, that team would have to compensate the Steelers with two No. 1 picks.
It is the second year in a row the Steelers have used a franchise tag to keep Starks from testing the open market. He was named a transition player last season—even though he wasn't a starter—and was paid $6.9 million.