The news out of Green Bay this morning was quite encouraging. The second domino fell for the upcoming free agent class on the offensive line. Less than two weeks ago, the Packers released Josh Sitton and now, left tackle David Bakhtiari was signed to a four-year, $51.67 million extension. This gives Bakhtiari an average salary of $12 million a year in new money and secures the blind side of Aaron Rodgers until 2020.
Bakhtiari has been a very solid performer at the left tackle spot since he was named the starter his rookie year. He went on to start 46 straight games until an ankle injury knocked him out for three weeks at the end of last year. This year he received a few bumps and bruises in the preseason but was able to perform very well in week one against Jacksonville. After going over the basics of Bakhtiari and what he brings to the table, the question is: Is he worth $12 million a year and being the fourth highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL?
The answer is very easy, Absolutely! It’s extremely rare to find a young, very good left tackle in the NFL. Bakhtiari is only 24 (he turns 25 in about two weeks) and has been starting for the past four years. It’s extremely rare to find that combination of youth and experience. In fact, he is now the youngest offensive lineman making over $5.5 million a year! Locking up talent like this is an easy decision and I can see why Ted Thompson wanted to get this done early in the season.
Let’s get down to some of the more telling aspects: is his performance worth the pay? Bakhtiari may not best the best tackle in the league, but he is far better than most and the biggest factor is that Aaron Rodgers trusts him. He is very good in the run game and has the speed to seal the edge when the Packers run their stretch plays. He also does well on inside runs, as was evident with his double team with Lane Taylor that broke Eddie Lacy for a nine yard gain on fourth and one early against Jacksonville (it’s a small sample size but a good one).
I would say the biggest aspect he needs to improve on is his pass protection. While he can move laterally in the run game, he is sometimes a step slow when it comes to the better pass rushers. The silver lining to that is so is almost every left tackle in the league. When an offensive lineman is 50+ pounds heavier, a step slower than most of speed rushers in the league and moving backwards (an unnatural movement compared to moving forward) he is almost always at a disadvantage. The fact that Bakhtiari gives up very few sacks is a testament to his skill and shows he is worth the money.
Another positive is his age. With him only being 24 and his contract expiring at 29, Bakhtiari has so much potential to grow and be a staple at the left tackle spot for another fours years and maybe even 10 years after that. The best tackles have a long shelf life and Bakhtiari is shaping up to follow the longevity footsteps of a Joe Thomas, Jonathan Ogden and, my other favorite lineman, Orlando Pace. If that turns out to be the case for Bakhtiari, the Packers will be more than pleased with how this contract pans out and, even possibly, the next.
While his next contract will probably jump another several million dollars per year, it is still way too early to anticipate what will happen in four more years. That being said it is comforting to know that the blind side of Aaron Rodgers will be secure for the future. Now the next step for Ted Thompson and the offense line is to decide what to do with JC Tretter and T.J. Lang. While Lang was told nothing will take place during the season, Tretter maybe the next to lock up an extension. At least, in my eyes that would be a smart bet to keep the current line intact and still build for the future.