Bills slap corner Clements with franchise tag

Bills cornerback Nate Clements became the second player this offseason to be slapped with the franchise tag before Thursday's deadline, when Buffalo designated him their franchise player Wednesday.

Jets defensive end John Abraham received the designation on Tuesday for the second consecutive season.

"We are announcing [Wednesday] that we have placed the franchise tag on Nate Clements," Bills general manager Marv Levy said. "We consider Nate a valuable member of our defense and believe he will play an important role in re-establishing our defense as one of the toughest units in the league. At the same time, we remain optimistic that we will be able to work out a long-term deal with Nate in the foreseeable future."

By using the franchise tag, the Bills essentially have made Clements a one-year qualifying offer worth $5.893 million. If Clements were to sign the qualifying offer, that money would be guaranteed. The two sides can also negotiate, of course, a long-term contract. The Bills were fortunate, since the qualifying offer for a franchise cornerback in 2006 is nearly $3 million less than it was a year ago.

Clements has 20 career interceptions and has led the Bills in that category each of his first four seasons. He is the team's all-time leader in return touchdowns with six and is third in franchise history with four interception return scores.

A 2005 Pro Bowl selection, he started all 16 games for the Bills last season and has started 72 straight games at the position. In 2005, he registered 127 tackles and had two interceptions.

Although Clements was not as productive in 2005 as he had been in the previous two seasons, the former Ohio State star, who possesses prototype size and superb athleticism, almost certainly would have been one of the most pursued veterans in free agency had he been allowed to go into the unrestricted market.
The Bills tied up their other starting cornerback, three-year veteran Terrence McGee, for the long-term with a four-year contract extension midway through the 2005 season.

Clements created a stir during training camp last summer, saying
he considered himself the NFL's best cornerback and wanted a deal
similar to the seven-year, $63 million contract that included an
$18 million bonus that Denver's Champ Bailey signed in 2004.

Clements' agent, Todd France, declined comment except to tell
The Associated Press that he and his client will weigh their
options. Adding he was not surprised by the Bills' decision, France
said he might meet with Bills management while attending the NFL
Combine in Indianapolis this week.

Information from ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli and The Associated Press was used in this report.