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Denver's top priority should be ensuring that fifth-year Pro Bowl left tackle Ryan Clady does not leave in free agency. Whether locking him up long term or slapping him with their franchise tag, the Broncos cannot afford to lose Clady.
A 6'6", 315-pound tackle out of Boise State, Clady has started all 80 games the Broncos have played since the team drafted him in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft. Last season, he allowed just one sack while quarterback Peyton Manning broke everyone of the franchise's major single-season passing records.
It would cost the Broncos about $9.6 million to place a one-year franchise tag on Clady this offseason, according to NFL.com (via BT). Tagging Clady seems to be the team's most likely play at this point.
Last month, Clady had to skip out on the 2013 Pro Bowl to have right shoulder surgery (which was first reported by the Denver Post). With Clady due to undergo rehab throughout much of the team's offseason program, the team may not be comfortable with committing to him long term.
"Shoulder is doing well guys," Clady informed fans on his Facebook page Tuesday morning before adding, "Thanks for all of the prayers!"
Placing the tag on Clady would ensure that he would stay in Denver for at least one more season; signing him to a long-term deal would help prevent a logjam of star players—including Demaryius Thomas and Von Miller—all becoming free agents at the same time in the coming years.
Either way, the Broncos need to get Clady locked away for the 2013 season. His presence on the offensive line is invaluable and the Broncos do not have another tackle on the roster capable of stepping in and playing at the same high level.