Clifton gets franchise tag

The Green Bay Packers today officially tagged Chad Clifton as a franchise player as both the team and Clifton's agent continue to work on a long-term deal.<p>

Under NFL rules, the Packers had until 3 p.m. (CT) to designate a Franchise and/or Transition player.

By designating Clifton, 27, as a franchise player, it means he has a one-year contract at the offensive-line franchise tender number set by the National Football League, which is around $7 million for the 2004 season.

The Packers maintain a right of first refusal to match any team's offer received by Clifton, a fifth-year pro. In the event another team presents an offer and the Packers elect not to match it, Green Bay would receive two first-round draft choices from the offering club.

The Packers, however, would like to settle on a long-term contract and remove the tag from Clifton before the March 3 free agency deadline. As a franchise player, Clifton's salary cap number immediately begins to count against Green Bay's projected $80.5 million cap.

If Clifton and the Packers can reach agreement on a long-term contract, that contract will replace the one-year Franchise-tender number, and Clifton will count much less against the Packers' 2004 salary cap.

Clifton has been Brett Favre's blind-side shield at left tackle the last four seasons, started all 16 games in 2003. He made a successful comeback from a career-threatening injury sustained at Tampa Bay, Nov. 24, 2002.

He is expected to be in line for a record signing bonus for a Packers player of between $12 million and $13 million. Favre received a Packers record $12 million signing bonus in February of 2001 as part of his $100 million deal.

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