As expected, the Broncos have placed their franchise tag on left tacke Ryan Clady. However, the team has wisely opted to apply the non-exclusive tender to their All-Pro, meaning other teams will have the opportunity to sign Clady away, at the cost of two first-round picks to Denver.
It had been speculated that Denver would use an exclusive tag, meaning Clady wouldn't have had the chance to negotiate with other teams. But as we had suggested two weeks ago, there are plenty of solid reasons for the Broncos to go the non-exclusive route.
With several top tackles set to hit free agency, and such a high price attached to signing Clady away, the team has little to lose with this choice.
If no team signs Clady to an offer sheet, then he'll be back protecting Peyton Manning's blind side, with either a new long-term deal in hand, or a guaranteed $9.828M salary for 2013, provided he signs the tender.
Should some team (hello, San Diego) attempt to pry Clady away, then Denver will have two extra first-round picks (one more this year, and another next year) to bolster their roster with. They could conceivably use one of those picks on a replacement, or they could sign someone like Miami's Jake Long or even Sebastian Vollmer, provided the Patriots opt not to tag him.
Stocking up on high draft picks is one of the best ways to refresh talent, and it's an art those same Patriots have perfected over the past decade. The Josh McDaniels Experiment may not have worked out, but that's not to say there aren't elements of the New England model that Denver shouldn't be copying.
In other expected news, right tackle Orlando Franklin had his right shoulder scoped on Thursday; he joins Clady, J.D. Walton, and Chris Kuper as starting linemen who are recovering from surgical procedures.
Left guard Zane Beadles is the only starter who has not gone under the knife since Walton was lost for the season in October.
Updated 11:21pm ET