It is unclear whether the Broncos are planning to use their exclusive or non-exclusive tag on Clady, but both options would probably keep him in Denver, as it seems unlikely that a team would be willing to give up two first round selections in exchange for signing a non-exclusively tagged Clady. With either tag, Clady would earn around $9.66 million in 2013.
But the sixth-year veteran who allowed just one sack last season is seeking a bigger payday.
When asked if he would sign the franchise tender the team is about to slap on him, Clady responded:
“Not right now,” Clady said on ESPN Radio in Denver (via ProFootballTalk.com) on Tuesday. “I’d try to get done something by this summer, and if not, eventually, yes, I will sign. But as of right now? No.”
Clady went on to note that he wants the kind of money the top-paid players at his position are receiving and, if he doesn't get it, he may hold out into the start of training camp, according to PFT. Unfortunately for Clady, he doesn't have a lot of leverage.
Clady is already going to miss most—if not all—of mini camp and OTAs this summer, while he recovers. Clady underwent surgery last month on his right rotator cuff that was injured in the team's playoff loss the the Baltimore Ravens in January. According to ESPN's Josina Anderson, Clady will be out five to six months to allow his body to heal properly.
With Clady's eventual return, the Broncos have no reason to commit to him long-term.
"We'd like to work something out," Broncos executive John Elway told the Denver Post last week. "Things have changed a little bit because he's coming off a shoulder surgery. But we like Ryan. We like him a lot as a player and we'd like to get something done."
What should the Broncos do with Clady?
Since being drafted by the Broncos 12th overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, the three-time Pro Bowler has started in all 80 games the Broncos have played, allowing an average of 5.2 sacks per season. But, coming off surgery, the Broncos aren't sure that he will be able to return to pre-injury form in 2013.
Another knock against Clady's chances of receiving a long-term contract is the fact that if the Broncos use a non-exclusive tag on him, other teams will be allowed to bid for his services. If another team does make Clady a lucrative offer, the Broncos would have the option of either matching the offer or accepting the team's next two first round selections in exchange for the rights to Clady.
Draft picks are highly valued and having three first round picks in the next two years would be an ideal situation for the Broncos. As for replacing Clady, there are a host of top-tier tackles about to hit free agency.
But, at the end of the day, like Elway said, the Broncos like Clady and want him to return, which is why they will ultimately tag him.
The question is how long will it be until Clady signs? This is a story that will continue to develop throughout the offseason.