While it's not as front-and-center as the impact Matthew Stafford's contract extension will have on the quarterback market, the multi-year deal Denver Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady signed will undoubtedly influence how much money the NFL's top edge protectors will be able to command in the future.
A day before franchise tagged players were no longer allowed to agree to long-term contracts with their teams, Clady and the Broncos came to terms on a monster extension, fortifying the protection of Peyton Manning's blindside for the next five years.
BREAKING: Broncos and LT Ryan Clady have agreed to 5 year, $57.5 million contract, including $33 million guaranteed.— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) July 15, 2013
With the way top quarterbacks are being paid in this day and age, it's logical that the men tasked to block for them are rewarded handsomely as well.
After all, negating pass-rushers like Aldon Smith, DeMarcus Ware and Cameron Wake isn't exactly the easiest job responsibility.
Before determining the precise effect Clady's extension will have on the contracts given to the best players at his position, let's start with a look at what the upper-echelon of offensive tackles are currently making in terms of the most important contract detail—guaranteed dollars:
Clady has started all 80 possible games since he was drafted into the NFL in 2008. He's widely accepted as one of, if not the best left tackles in the game, so let's break down the merits of that perception by comparing the former Boise State star to his contemporaries:
*All stats are courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com (subscription required) and are ratings from the 2012 season.
However, none of those tackles have contracts that expire in the next two years, therefore it's a bit premature to be concerned with how their next contracts will be influenced by Clady's extension.
This is what the 2014 class of free-agent left tackles looks like:
- Eugene Monroe, Jacksonville Jaguars
- Michael Oher, Baltimore Ravens
- Marshall Newhouse, Green Bay Packers
- Rodger Saffold, St. Louis Rams
- Jared Veldheer, Oakland Raiders
- Branden Albert, Kansas City Chiefs (Franchise Tagged in 2013)
Collectively, that's a solid group of above-average offensive tackles who certainly won't, and shouldn't, settle for relatively low-paying contracts.
Then again, they aren't on Clady's level from an on-field production standpoint, so, in all likelihood, they won't be able to receive a deal with as much guaranteed money as him:
He's somewhat of a dark horse, but with another dominant year, 26-year-old Jared Veldheer could command close to $30 million guaranteed, and although Branden Albert has been a sound edge-protector in Kansas City, he'll be 29 in November and has dealt with back injuries in the past.
The following year, Bryan Bulaga is the only big name offensive tackle set to be a free agent, and he's clearly a lesser player than Clady.
The contracts of Trent Williams and Russell Okung will be up in 2016, and there's a chance their respective clubs will want to extend their cornerstone left tackles before they hit the open market.
Both players are of Clady's caliber and depending on how they play over the next few seasons, they very well could get contract extensions that exceed Clady's in overall value and guaranteed money.
For the next year or two though, the $33 million guaranteed the Broncos left tackle received will be the ultimate benchmark for which blindside protectors and their agents will strive—although D'Brickashaw Ferguson actually has more guaranteed money, $34.8 million, built into a deal he signed in 2010 (special thanks to Mike Tannenbaum).
It's a figure Veldheer or Albert could command, and that figure could eventually be exceeded by Williams or Okung.
But it'll be a while until the next "huge" left tackle contract extension is signed, one that will use Clady's deal as a starting point.
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