ENGLEWOOD, Colo. - Ryan Clady has been one of the NFL's most dependable players, quickest healers and best risk assessors.
One year after rejecting a $50 million offer and playing last season for a relative bargain price of $3.5 million, Peyton Manning's blindside protector cashed in on his gamble by signing a five-year deal worth up to $57.5 million over the weekend.
Clady, who turns 27 on Sept. 6, is one of four offensive linemen in NFL history to start every game in each of his first five seasons and also earn three Pro Bowl berths. He skipped last year's trip to Hawaii with a torn right labrum.
He had surgery and hopes to be cleared by early August, and the Broncos are confident he'll be in the lineup Sept. 5 when the Baltimore Ravens visit Denver to kick off the 2013 season.
Clady's proven healing power was on display in 2010 when he blew out his left knee on the basketball court. He returned from major surgery to start all 16 games and reached his previous form the past two seasons.
Although Clady stayed away from the team's offseason program, the Broncos were able to have head athletic trainer Steve Antonopulos directly evaluate his shoulder this summer. Clady said that visit and a positive report from noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews helped speed resolution on the deal that netted him $33 million in guaranteed money.
Had the sides not agreed to a deal by Monday's deadline, Clady would have had to play this season for $9.823 million. While that's nothing to scoff at, it wouldn't have provided him long-term security. It also could have led to a training camp holdout and maybe to his eventual departure from Denver in the next year or two.
Now, Clady's in a good place - fiscally and physically.
"Yes, I'm definitely glad to have the process over. Early in the offseason I thought it would get done. But there were times where I thought it possibly couldn't get done, especially with the market being where it is, and other franchise players not really getting deals done," Clady said Monday.
Clady's deal puts him among the best-paid offensive linemen in the NFL, just behind Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, who averages $11.5 million on an eight-year, $92 million extension that includes $44 million in guarantees.
"It definitely puts me with some good company up there with Joe Thomas. I've been working hard to try to get on that level," Clady said. "The Broncos have showed great respect in getting this deal done. ...
"So it's good. I think this is a big year for us as a team. We definitely have a lot of expectations: Super Bowl or bust, for the most part. It's a lot of pressure, unlike last year where we kind of just rolled in and tried to get things together."
Broncos VP John Elway said Clady is "a guy that deserved the money that he got. So we have high expectations, but we also know that he's going to meet that, and he's been a great leader on this football team, and we're just thrilled that we continue to keep the great players that have played great for us."