For Green Bay Packers left tackle David Bakhtiari, the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train.
Rather, it’s a Brink’s truck filled with cash.
It’s been a big offseason for left tackles, which should only benefit free agent-to-be Bakhtiari. New Orleans’ Terron Armstead and Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn signed contract extensions worth $13 million and $12 million annually, respectively. Russell Okung went from Seattle to Denver on a five-year deal worth $10.6 million per season, and Kelvin Beachum went from Pittsburgh to Jacksonville on a five-year deal worth $9 million per season.
“Do I know what has happened? Yes. I’m not living under a rock,” Bakhtiari said last month. “But am I coming in every day with a notebook researching finances and wondering what I’m going to do? No, that’s not going to affect (me).”
Left tackle is a premium position. Based on projected depth charts, there are as many first-round starting left tackles as quarterbacks — 20 apiece. That puts Bakhtiari in the minority as a fourth-round starter — one of just six from the fourth round or later. The money spent at that position reflects its importance around the league. According to OverTheCap.com:
— 18 left tackles have contracts with an average payout of at least $7 million per season, including eight with an average payout of at least $10 million per season.
— 20 left tackles have contracts worth a total of at least $20 million, including seven worth at least $50 million.
— 15 left tackles have contracts including at least $15 million of guaranteed money.
To put that in perspective, look at the wide receivers and cornerbacks, positions with two (or three) starters per team:
— 21 receivers and 25 cornerbacks have contracts with an average payout of at least $7 million per season, including 11 receivers and 10 cornerbacks with an average payout of at least $10 million per season.
— 24 receivers and 29 cornerbacks have contracts worth a total of at least $20 million, including seven receivers and nine cornerbacks worth at least $50 million.
— 14 receivers and 16 cornerbacks have contracts including at least $15 million of guaranteed money.
In light of the money thrown around this offseason, how much money will Bakhtiari pocket, either with an in-season extension from the Packers or in free agency next offseason? Once he got past a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the preseason, Bakhtiari didn’t allow a sack in his final 10 games. Compare Bakhtiari to the aforementioned group of highly paid left tackles, with these sack totals from STATS:
— Bakhtiari: 5.0 in 2015, 19.5 in last three seasons.
— Armstead: 3.0 in 2015, 9.0 in last three seasons.
— Beachum: 4.0 in 2015, 19 in last three seasons.
— Glenn: 4.5 in 2015, 21.5 in last three seasons.
— Okung: 4.0 in 2015, 9.0 in last three seasons. However, in his first six seasons, Okung never has played a full season and has missed a total of 24 games.
Bakhtiari might not be an upper-echelon left tackle but he’s certainly not a weak link on the offense, either. Regardless of the individual matchup, the coaches haven’t had to adjust game plans to account for any deficiencies from their left tackle. In three seasons, he’s gotten better and better, and there’s no reason to believe his growth won’t continue as he’ll turn only 25 on Sept. 30.
“I’m working on some film eval of my rookie year and I’m like, ‘Who the (heck) is that dude?’ Wiry, skinny … I can’t believe that used to be my stance, I can’t believe that’s how I used to move,” he said. “I’ve grown a lot from my rookie year. To me, I made a really big jump from Year 1 to 2, and I took another jump from 2 to 3. You look at what we have as statistics, I’ve gone down in every number every year. That’s what I want to continue to do, I pride myself on that, and I pride myself on how I play and how I finish.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.