COMMENTARY | The NBA isn't the only sport where July 1 is a significant date.
While the latter's free agency period officially began yesterday, July 1 is a date that matters for the NFL as well. There are just two weeks remaining for players under the franchise tag to sign a contract extension.
For the Denver Broncos, these last 14 days -- and how they manage them -- are crucial when deciding how to handle all-pro left tackle Ryan Clady's contract discussion. The Broncos are a team that already learned how critical time management can be this offseason, losing pass-rusher Elvis Dumervil on a fax machine snafu.
In that time frame, the Broncos have to decide if Clady is actually worth the money he's demanding.
As reported by the National Football Post, the Broncos and Clady, who is currently on a $9.8 million franchise tag, aren't close to an extension. The two sides had resumed contract talks June 15, but Clady's seeking top money that left tackles Joe Thomas (eight-years, $92 million) and Jason Peters (six-year, $60 million) made. Clady turned down a five-year, $50 million deal last summer.
On paper, the decision to extend Clady is a no-brainer. The 26 year-old has made the Pro Bowl three times and a two-time first-team All-Pro. Clady allowed just one sack last year and only 26 sacks in his five year career. Besides stats, Clady is great in pass and run coverage.
Still, there are a lot of factors when having to consider Clady's situation. His contract debate comes down to whether the Broncos need to secure stability for its future now or later.
The first place to consider with Clady is injuries. Regarding the offensive line, the Broncos have them.
Starting center J.D. Walton recently required additional surgery on his left ankle, possibly causing him to miss the season. Right guard Chris Kuper, who is a potential cap causality for this training camp, has also been plagued by injuries, missing nine regular-season games last year.
Two quality starters missing from a solid line works in favor of Clady's demands. The Broncos need the best line possible if they're in a win-now mode. Without a long-term contract, Clady's unhappiness could become an unnecessary distraction throughout the course of the season. They need him at his best to live up to the heavy expectations placed on them.
The problem with this argument is that Clady is also coming off an injury with having surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. There are questions whether Clady will be at full strength in the future. Furthermore, Clady also had surgery in 2010 to repair a patellar tendon that he damaged in a pick-up game of basketball. Should the Broncos invest long-term money in a guy with two major surgeries?
However, the biggest problem that comes up with Clady isn't injuries. The problem is deciding on which direction to take and which players to pursue.
The Broncos have two massive free agents looming after the 2014-2015 season. Both Von Miller and Demaryius Thomas will be on the market. Miller is an absolute player they cannot afford to lose and Thomas is growing into an elite receiver that will make him valuable that summer.
Miller's and Thomas' contracts create two situations for the Broncos: either reach a deal with Clady by July 15 to assure his status for the future or let him explore free agency next spring and try to secure him while also dealing with Miller's extension.
Even then, Clady's contract all comes back to money. Is Clady really worth an extra year or two at $10 million if it means losing Thomas or Miller? Eric Decker will also be a free agent after this season. Granted, receivers are easier to replace than All-Pro left tackles, but a player like Von Miller is not. The Broncos have decisions to make.
There is a lot at stake for the franchise's future in the next 14 days. With each day that goes by without a deal, the larger the questions surrounding them will become.
Matthew Paras is a Journalism Major at DePaul University. He writes for multiple outlets including Maxboxing.com, Operationsports.com, and DePaul's student newspaper, The DePaulia. He can be reached by email at Mparas1432@gmail.com or on twitter @Matthew_Paras. He currently resides in Chicago, but lived in Littleton, Colo. for seven years.
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- American Football
- Denver Broncos
- Ryan Clady