Colts president Bill Polian said Wednesday that Clark signed a new six-year contract that virtually assures Peyton Manning of finding one of his favorite targets for the rest of his career. Terms were not disclosed, but a source close to the negotiations said the deal will make Clark the NFL's highest-paid player at his position even though he's never been selected to the Pro Bowl. The source spoke on condition of anonymity because of a clause in the contract.
The move came a day after the Colts announced they designated Clark their franchise player.
"Mr. Polian and I had engaged in ongoing conversations since the fall with the intent desire to keep Dallas with the Colts till the end of his career," said Neil Cornrich, Clark's agent. "It's been close for quite a while and we just refined it."
As the franchise player, Clark would have been guaranteed $4.55 million, the average of the top five tight end salaries in the NFL. But the long-term contract means the Colts can make the deal more affordable under the NFL's complex salary cap structure. The cap is expected to be about $123 million this season.
For the Colts, it's their second major move in two days.
On Wednesday, the Colts signed starting guard Ryan Lilja to a five-year deal that team owner Jim Irsay said was worth about $19 million and included a signing bonus of roughly $4.5 million.
Lilja and Clark now join the growing list of Colts' multimillionaires. The members already include two-time league MVP Manning, Pro Bowl receivers Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne, former sacks champion Dwight Freeney and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Bob Sanders. All of those deals have been completed since March 2004, and Freeney and Sanders are also the highest-paid players at their position.
It may mean the Colts will have to release other players, perhaps even defensive tackle Anthony McFarland.
"In terms of trying to finalize the roster, it will take some more work," Irsay said. "Again, you try to make your judgments about where the money is being spent and anticipate where future contracts will come in."
Clearly, though, the Colts didn't want to lose either Clark or Lilja, and keeping them, Polian believes, has given Indy a jump on the free-agent market.
"Obviously, any time you can get players of that caliber done, it's a positive," Polian said. "The net is that we've got Bob on a long-term contract, we've got Dallas on a long-term contract and we've got Ryan on a long-term contract. So we've had a hell of a free-agency year."
It also resolves the Colts' biggest question mark heading into free agency. Starting guard Jake Scott and backup defensive end Josh Thomas are now the biggest names still scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.