As a young left tackle, David Bakhtiari leaned on Josh Sitton for his experience and mentorship.
Bakhtiari has blossomed into a top young left tackle — the kind of building block the Packers needed to keep. So, it’s with no small bit of irony that the Packers released Sitton last Saturday and used some of that savings to sign Bakhtiari to a contract extension on Tuesday.
The deal, which will keep Bakhtiari under contract through 2020, is worth up to $51.67 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein, the deal includes about $17 million in guaranteed money and an additional $10.7 million in roster and workout bonuses.
"Surreal and lost for words," he said on Twitter.
How this will impact the salary cap wasn’t immediately known. By clearing Sitton’s $6.3 million cap hit, the Packers were $16.194 million under the cap, according to the latest NFLPA data.
If Bakhtiari’s contract seems incredibly expensive, that’s simply the going rate for that position. Left tackle is a premium position, for obvious reasons as that player is the blind-side protector for a right-handed quarterback. When the Chiefs signed Eric Fisher to a four-year, $48 million extension on July 30, that brought the number of left tackles earning $7 million per season to 19. That number included 13 averaging at least $9 million and nine averaging at least $10 million.
Bakhtiari’s contract from 2017 through 2020 reportedly averages $12 million per season. If true, that would make Bakhtiari tied for the fourth-highest-paid left tackle in the NFL behind Washington’s Trent Williams ($13.2 million) and New Orleans’ Terron Armstead ($13 million), and tied with Fisher and Buffalo’s Cordy Glenn.
Until Bakhtiari was sidelined for the final two regular-season games of last season by an ankle injury, he had started every game in his three-year career. Starting 14 times in the regular season, he allowed five sacks (compared to 14.5 during his first two seasons), according to STATS. After fighting through a knee injury that sidelined him for most of the preseason, he didn’t allow a sack in his final 10 games.
According to data provided courtesy of ProFootballFocus.com, Bakhtiari ranked a woeful 60th among all offensive tackles during the first seven weeks of last season in its pass-blocking efficiency metric, which measures sacks, hits and pressures allowed per pass-blocking snap. Over the final 10 weeks, he ranked seventh to surge to 27th.
The downside? Penalties and run blocking. He had been flagged six times for holding in each of his three seasons. His 11 total penalties — most of his career — ranked sixth among offensive tackles.
Bakhtiari had gotten better and better as his career had progressed. He was unbeatable during one-on-one drills in training camp this summer, going 14-0 by our unofficial tally, and had a strong debut at Jacksonville on Sunday. That the good news. The better news? He doesn’t turn 25 until Sept. 30, so there presumably is room for Bakhtiari to progress.
The Packers started camp with four of their top six offensive linemen slated to become free agents. Without Sitton and with Bakhtiari’s extension, that leaves right guard T.J. Lang and center J.C. Tretter unsigned for 2017. Other key players who are scheduled to become free agents include the rest of the 2013 draft class (Datone Jones, Eddie Lacy and Micah Hyde), along with outside linebackers Nick Perry and Julius Peppers.
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.