The Philadelphia Eagles are no strangers to resetting the right tackle market, as it was their contract with Lane Johnson years ago that took the right tackle market past the $10M per year market. On Black Friday it was reported that the pair has again reset the market, once again potentially resetting not just the tackle market, but possibly the entire offensive line market as well. According to reports, Johnson has reached agreement to become the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL, with a contract extension that also includes record guarantees.
Sources: The #Eagles have agreed to a four-year, $72 million extension with right tackle Lane Johnson that includes $54.595 guaranteed. It is the largest contract for an NFL offensive lineman in history on a per-year and guarantee basis.— Mike Garafolo (@MikeGarafolo) November 29, 2019
With this contract coming in at $18M per year, that obliterates the previous high of $16.5M per year that Trent Brown of the Oakland Raiders signed for less than nine months ago and moves things into a very unique position. While right tackle salaries have historically lagged behind the salaries of left tackles, and sometimes even those of centers, the Brown and Johnson contracts represent the two largest per year averages for any offensive linemen of any position.
That creates the possibility where the discount that the salary gap that had previously existed between right and left tackles is now a thing of the past, and that could have huge implications for the Seattle Seahawks during the offseason.
As I looked at just a few days ago, right tackle is set to be a very large question mark for the Hawks during the 2020 season, and for fans who were hoping Seattle could bring back either Ifedi or Fant on a reasonable contract extension, those hopes have likely been crushed.
There are five right tackles slated scheduled to be free agents in the spring who have played at least 80% of their team’s offensive snaps this season, and of those five, only two - Jack Conklin and Germain Ifedi - are under 30 years of age. Conklin, of course, was an All Pro as a rookie in 2016, but hasn’t been quite the same since tearing his ACL in the 2017 playoffs. Meanwhile Ifedi does not have any accolades to his name, but has appeared in 55 of 59 games the Hawks have played since he was drafted.
Thus, it seems likely that when free agency opens, Conklin could potentially be the top target among teams looking for a right tackle, with Ifedi being the consolation prize. With the top of the right tackle market now established well north of $15M, it won’t be a surprise if Conklin winds up landing a deal that pays him $16M-$17M annually. Once the bidding war for his services is finished, the teams that missed out will likely move on to Ifedi, and just as is seen in bidding wars on houses, once someone has overpaid for the top asset, bids for the second choice get hot quickly.
It therefore follows that it should come as no surprise if a $14M market for Ifedi quickly develops.
That may seem like a ridiculous amount for a lineman that many fans would prefer to see benched or playing elsewhere, but it is simply a function of the market for offensive linemen as it currently exists in the NFL. In addition, the 32 NFL teams are slated to have somewhere around $1.5B, yes that a ‘B’ representing a billion, in cap space available to spend in free agency before ever cutting any players to create cap space. In short, there will be a whole lot of money to hand out, and Ifedi will be hitting the market at the perfect time such that his position is in premium demand and teams are flush with cap space thanks to a rookie wage scale and free agency system that keeps the salaries of two thirds of nearly every team’s roster under cost controlled constraints.
As for what this all means for the other Seahawks tackle slated to be a free agent in the spring, George Fant, I’ll get to that on Sunday.