T Starks signs Steelers' franchise deal

Though he was surprised to be tagged as the Pittsburgh Steelers' franchise player, tackle Max Starks wasted little time accepting his fate.

Starks signed a one-year, $8.45 million deal Saturday, locking him in for another season with the team.

As a franchise player, Starks could have explored other opportunities. Any interested team would have had to offer two first-round picks or work out a trade with the Steelers.

By signing the franchise tender, Starks' entire salary is guaranteed for 2009.

Starks was transitioned by the Steelers from a reserve role last year but didn't open the season as a starter.

Back problems limited the playing time of starting left tackle Marvel Smith, which opened the door for Starks to start and eventually be the starting left tackle through the Super Bowl.

Starks is the third of the 14 franchise players to sign their tenders. Michael Koenen, a punter, signed his tender with the Falcons. Quarterback Matt Cassel did the same with the Patriots.

John Clayton is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.