Negotiations with Clark, whose contract voided after the 2007 season, heated up toward the end of the season, but without resolution. The Colts instead reached agreement on a five-year, $37.5 million contract with safety Bob Sanders, the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year. Talks with Clark resumed in the past week, but with no deal in sight, the Colts felt it necessary to designate him as their franchise player.
The one-year franchise tender for a tight end is $4.522 million. If any team tries to sign him, they would have to surrender two first-round draft choices, which is unlikely. Clark is the second tight end to be franchised this offseason. The Eagles did the same with L.J. Smith.
The Colts and Clark have until mid-July to try to reach a long-term deal. With the franchising of Clark, six players have been given the franchise designation before Thursday's deadline. Any team wishing to franchise or transition a player has to record that transaction by 4 p.m. ET Thursday.
The Colts locked up another starting offensive player on Tuesday by reaching a five-year deal with guard Ryan Lilja.
Terms of the deal weren't available, but the franchising of Clark and the re-signing of Lilja leaves guard Jake Scott and defensive end Josh Thomas, who started seven games in 2007, as the team's only unsigned unrestricted free
Lilya, 26, is one of the great finds of the Colts over the past several seasons. He was cut by the Chiefs as an undrafted rookie in 2004. The Colts claimed him on waivers, and he's started 43 games at guard over the past four seasons. Re-signing either Lilja or Scott was considered one of the team's top priority this offseason. Scott and Lilja each played close to 100 percent of the Colts' offensive snaps in 2007.
Senior writer John Clayton covers the NFL for ESPN.com.