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The market for right tackles continues to explode

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Seatle Seahawks v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

In recent years the combination of the salary cap rising far faster than minimum salaries has seen veterans who are seen as long term starters at most positions get paid more. Quarterbacks and pass rushers have led the charge, however, in the past couple of years offensive linemen have started to get paid extremely well also. Left tackles led the way, but in recent years interior offensive linemen had starting receiving large pay days as well, with guards such as Kelechi Osemele and Kevin Zeitler cashing in during free agency.

The exception had been right tackle, where the contract Lane Johnson signed in January 2016, with an salary of $11.25M remained the top of the right tackle market for more than three years, which is unheard of in today’s NFL. Ricky Wagner took over the second spot among right tackles with a $9.5M average annual salary when he signed with the Detroit Lions as a free agent in March of 2017, and a year and two weeks ago Rob Havenstein jumped into the third spot when he signed a four-year, $32.5M contract with the Los Angeles Rams.

When free agency opened in March, however, the right tackle market exploded, and the market as it exists right now is a far different market than the one that existed just a few months ago. First, former New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers tackle Trent Brown became the highest paid offensive lineman in NFL history when the Oakland Raiders signed him to a four-year contract that averages $16.5M per season as soon as free agency opened. The next day Ja’Wuan James, formerly of the Miami Dolphins, agreed to a four-year, $51M contract with the Denver Broncos that would make him the second highest paid right tackle in the NFL at $12.75M annually.

Then, in June, Mitchell Schwartz of the Kansas City Chiefs signed a one year extension with a salary of $11.255M, moving into third place and pushing Havenstein’s deal from third to sixth in a little more than nine months. That leads into Wednesday when La’el Collins signed a five year extension with the Dallas Cowboys.

Just a year ago $10M would have been the second highest average salary for right tackles, but because of all the signings in the position, it’s now fifth, and all of a sudden the fifth year option on Germain Ifedi that would have cost $10.3M is looking like it may have been a bargain. Ifedi, slated to hit free agency next spring, could be poised to cash in on the rapidly rising market. Add in potential extensions for Jack Conklin and Brian Bulaga between now and the start of free agency, and it’s not unreasonable to think that Ifedi could land a contract that averages $11M per year and not even be in the top five at the position.

In short, with every right tackle contract that teams hand out, it gets more and more costly for the team to extend Ifedi, or even George Fant, for that matter. There’s obviously a significant amount of time between now and the start of free agency in the spring, so there’s plenty of time to address things. However, with Duane Brown not getting any younger and both Fant and Ifedi potentially looking to cash in as free agents, the offensive line could be a position to watch as the 2019 season gets going.

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