The Philadelphia Eagles created a mild stir last week when they popped for a six-year contract with Lane Johnson despite their (current) right tackle still have two years remaining on his rookie deal, including the fifth-year option.
Johnson’s deal is reportedly worth potentially $63 million, including $35.5 million guaranteed. And this is for a right tackle. Some thinking is that Johnson, the No. 4-overall pick in the 2013 draft, will eventually move to left tackle when Jason Peters, whom Kyle Long coincidentally replaced on the Pro Bowl roster, is done in Philadelphia.
It would not be a complete surprise for Long, who came into the NFL 16 picks after Johnson did in 2013, to get his inevitable extension sooner rather than later, like Johnson. The Bears have managed their cap situation with aplomb and the overall money pool is due to deepen, too.
The going rate for good tackles, which the Eagles clearly regard Johnson as, is north of $10 million. Besides Johnson, Ryan Clady’s five-year deal with the Denver Broncos came in at $52.5 million over five years, and Clady has been a Pro Bowl starter. Long has three straight Pro Bowls in his NFL career; Johnson, for comparison purposes, has none. At guard or tackle.
Long, who came into the NFL with Johnson and the ’13 class really wasn’t all that keen on going from being a two-time Pro Bowl guard to an apprentice right tackle. But former offensive coordinator Adam Gase praised Long for his willingness to make the position change. The Bears have taken care of key players – Jay Cutler, Roberto Garza, Matt Slauson, others – with early extensions.
[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear right here]
Right or left? Think twice about it
Left tackle has become the glamour position on offensive lines, pretty much over the last 30 years with finding someone to deal with blind-side speed rushers from the defensive right side like Lawrence Taylor (primarily), Bruce Smith, Richard Dent and so on. Blind-side hits produce the occasional loose football.
But so many Hall of Fame defensive ends have been left, not right, ends – in no particular order, including Reggie White, Deacon Jones, Howie Long, Willie Davis, Michael Strahan, Dan Hampton, Jack Youngblood and so on. The front-side rusher is the one in the quarterback’s face, the one he can see and panic at the sight of coming around his right-tackle’s outside.
Accordingly, the Hall of Fame has welcomed Bob Brown (“Boomer”), Ron Yary, Rayfield Wright, Forrest Gregg, Jackie Slater and others from the right edge of the offensive line.
Nearly all of the top salaries for tackles are for left tackles; Johnson only right tackle among the top 19 salaries for tackles. Long being the second would not be a premature move by the Bears with one of their franchise players, regardless of position.