Tackle gets qualifying offer of $7.021M

Green Bay Packers: Unable to reach a long-term agreement before a Tuesday 4 p.m. deadline, the Green Bay Packers have designated left offensive tackle Chad Clifton a franchise player, apprising him and his agent of the move by fax, ESPN.com confirmed.

The maneuver, which had been anticipated, greatly reduces the potential for Clifton to depart the Packers as a free agent. It means the team has made the four-year veteran a one-year qualifying offer for $7.021 million.

Clifton, 27, is arguably the linchpin veteran of an offensive line that might have been the NFL's best overall blocking unit in 2003. The Packers ranked third in the NFL in rushing offense and surrendered only 19 sacks, second-fewest in the league.

It marked the initial season in which Clifton, who joined the Packers as a second-round pick in the 2000 draft, was able to start all 16 games. Most impressive was the fact that Clifton was able to rehabilitate from the career-threatening hip injury sustained late in the 2002 season when impacted by Warren Sapp of Tampa Bay on a blindside hit.

A former University of Tennessee star, Clifton has appeared in 53 games and started in 48 of them, and is viewed as an emerging star at a key position.

Baltimore Ravens: The Baltimore Ravens waited until the final day to name Chris McAlister as their franchise player for the second straight year.

"As we've said for the last year, our intent is to make sure
Chris McAlister stays a Raven," said Baltimore general manager
Ozzie Newsome, who attended the final workouts at the NFL
Combine. "The goal is to reach a long-term contract with him and
his agent."

McAlister, 26, was given the franchise tag last March and
signed a one-year qualifying offer worth $5.962 million after
attempts to reach a long-term agreement failed.

This time, the
franchise tag will obligate the Ravens to pay McAlister $6.8
million, the average salary of the top five cornerbacks.

McAlister can sign an offer sheet with another
team, but the Ravens would have the right to match or accept two
first-round picks as compensation.

Baltimore held off on signing McAlister to a multi-year contract
due to his off-the-field problems. Ravens coach Brian Billick
benched McAlister for a Sept. 21 game at San Diego after
the cornerback missed curfew and skipped a team meeting.

Last August, McAlister was pulled over for speeding and charged
with driving under the influence in Fairfax County, Va.

On the field, McAlister is one of the league's top
cover corners. A starter since being selected in the first round
in 1999, McAlister usually is given the task of covering the
opponent's top receiver.

Two cornerbacks already have been designated as franchise
players -- Charles Woodson by the Oakland Raiders and Champ
Bailey by the Washington Redskins.

Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jacksonville Jaguars made strong
safety Donovin Darius their franchise player for the second
straight year Tuesday.

Darius will make $4.1 million next season if he doesn't agree to
a new contract with the Jaguars. Another team can still sign
Darius, but would have to give up two first-round draft picks if
Jacksonville didn't match the offer.

The $4.1 million is the average of the five highest-paid
safeties in the league.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs put their "transition" tag on right tackle John Tait.

Kansas City can match any offers that Tait receives.

Tait, a five-year veteran, was drafted by the Chiefs with the 14th overall pick in the 1999 draft.

New Orleans Saints: The New Orleans Saints on Monday placed their franchise tag on
defensive end Darren Howard, who missed eight games last season
with a dislocated wrist.

Over the final seven weeks, Howard
recorded five sacks and 25 tackles.

The franchise tag assures Howard of a salary of $6.5 million in
2004 unless a multi-year agreement is reached.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks placed the franchise
tag on Pro Bowl tackle Walter Jones on Tuesday.

The move would give the four-time Pro Bowl player a $7.1 million
salary for next season, the average pay for the NFL's top five
offensive linemen.

Jones can negotiate with other teams, but Seattle can match any
offers or receive two first-round draft choices if the Seahawks
decide not to match. The Seahawks also have until March 17 to
negotiate a contract with Jones.

Failing to agree on a deal would mean the Seattle front office
would have to wait until July to resume talks.

Jones, selected by Seattle with the sixth overall pick in the
1997 draft, has started 106 games at left tackle. He was the only
Seahawks offensive lineman to reach the Pro Bowl until Steve
Hutchinson was selected after last season.

Jones also was tagged by the Seahawks last year.

Information from The Associated Press and SportsTicker was used in this report. Senior ESPN.com writers Len Pasquarelli and John Clayton contributed.