The Broncos, Ryan Clady and the Value Of a Left Tackle

It has been reported recently that the Denver Broncos have opened up preliminary talks with Left Tackle Ryan Clady's agent in order to sign him to a long term extension. Clady, 25, is in the final year of his rookie deal. He will draw a $3.5 million salary in 2012.
On 7/25/2008, Ryan signed his rookie contract for 6-years, $14.75 million. The deal includes $11.415 million guaranteed. Another $2.55 million is available through incentives. 2009: $2,141,250, 2010: $2,569,500, 2011: $2,997,750, 2012: $1.994 million (Voidable Year), 2013: Free Agent

So how much is a Left Tackle worth in today’s market?

Let us begin with what Ryan has done in his four year career as a Bronco.

The 12th overall pick in the 2008 NFL Draft, Clady has started all 66 regular and post-season games in his career. He was a 2nd Team All-Pro after allowing just a half sack as a rookie and made 1st Team All-Pro honors in 2009. Ryan actually set an NFL record for consecutive games without surrendering a full Sack (20 games, half Sack). He has allowed 24.5 sacks in the past three seasons though. Part of that was due to a torn patellar tendon in his left knee suffered in a pickup basketball game during the 2010 offseason. The other reason was trying to pass block for a very raw mobile Quarterback who wouldn't stay in the pocket. The production loss in Clady's Pass Blocking was made up in his improvement as a Run Blocker. The Broncos ranked No. 1 in rushing last season.

Clady struggled through the 2010 season, never missing a start, even though it was obvious thet he wasn't 100%. In fact, Clady has only missed 15 regular season snaps (13 in 2010, two in 2011) over his four-year career. Ryan did bounce back last season to make the Pro Bowl for a second time.

Determining Ryan Clady's worth will be a job for the Broncos and Clady's agent to haggle over, but the bottom line really, is whether the team thinks he is worth Top 5 money at his position. I'm sure Ryan and his representation believe it. So let's see what we can do to figure out who the Top Left Tackles are in the NFL.

Clady has been ranked as high as 1st and as low as 12th on different sites and according to various elements as Sacks allowed, pressures allowed, Holding and False Start penalties,

Last summer, during the Lockout, ESPN listed the best players at the Left Tackle position. I will put their contract numbers below.

1. Joe Thomas, Cleveland Browns
2. Jake Long, Miami Dolphins
3. Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos
4. Jordan Gross, Carolina Panthers
5. D'Brickashaw Ferguson, NY Jets
6. Michael Roos, Tennessee Titans
7. Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles
8t. Marcus McNeill, San Diego Chargers (Free Agent)
8t. Donald Penn, Tampa Bay Bucs
10. Matt Light, New England Patriots (Retired)

There may be others who deserve a spot on this list, but it is sufficient for our discussion.

Next to Quarterback, Left Tackle is the 2nd-highest paid position in the NFL. Here is a look at the contracts for those above and the most recent Free Agent deals this past offseason.

Joe Thomas signed an 8-year, $92 million contract on 8/22/2011. The deal contains $44 million guaranteed. 2012: $10.5 million, 2013: $10 million, 2014: $10.9 million, 2015: $8.8 million, 2016: $8.3 million, 2017-2018: $8.8 million, 2019: Free Agent

Jake Long - On 4/22/2008, he signed a 5-year, $57.75 million contract. The deal includes $30 million guaranteed. Year six voided based on rookie-year playing time (Long started all 16 games). 2012: $11.2 million, 2013: Free Agent

Jordan Gross - 2/19/2009: Signed a 6-year, $60 million contract. The deal included a $5 million signing bonus. 2012: $8.5 million, 2013: $8.7 million, 2014: $6.7 million, 2015: Free Agent

D'Brickashaw Ferguson - 7/7/2010: Signed an eight-year, $73.6 million contract. The deal contains $34.8 million guaranteed, including a $1.6 million signing bonus, a first-year roster bonus of $3.1 million, and a second-year option bonus of $3.9 million. All but $5.3 million of the "guarantees," however, are guaranteed only for "skill" and not injury. 2012: $985,000 (+ $9 million "signing" bonus), 2013: $7.25 million, 2014-2015: $5.95 million, 2016: $8.625 million, 2017: $11.275 million, 2018: Free Agent

Michael Roos - 4/25/2008: Signed a six-year, $43 million contract. The deal contains $15 million guaranteed, including a $9 million signing bonus and a second-year roster bonus of $4 million. Another $1.5 million is available through escalators. 2012: $5.5 million, 2013: $6 million, 2014: $6.625 million (Voidable Year), 2015: Free Agent

Jason Peters - 4/28/2009: Signed a six-year, $60.657 million contract. The deal contains $25 million guaranteed, including an $11 million signing bonus. 2012: $7.9 million, 2013: $10.4 million, 2014: $9.65 million, 2015: Free Agent

Donald Penn - 7/30/2010: Signed a six-year, $41.7 million contract. The deal contains $18.8 million guaranteed, including a $2 million signing bonus and Penn's base salaries in years one through three. Another $5.5 million is available through first-year incentives, though they are "unlikely to be earned." Annual $400,000 workout bonuses and $600,000 weight-clause incentives are available in years two through six. 2011: $7.2 million, 2012: $5.1 million, 2013: $5 million, 2014: $6.4 million, 2015: $6.5 million, 2016: Free Agent

Trent Williams, Washington Redskins - 7/30/2010: Signed a six-year, $60 million contract. The deal includes $36.75 million guaranteed. 2011: $7,852,000, 2012: $11 million, 2013: $5 million, 2014: $7.25 million, 2015: $10.25 million, 2016: Free Agent

Russell Okung, Seattle Seahawks - 8/6/2010: Signed a six-year, $48.5 million contract. The deal includes $30 million guaranteed. Another $9.5 million is available through incentives. 2011: $2.9 million, 2012: $3.48 million, 2013: $4.06 million, 2014: $4.64 million, 2015: $5.22 million, 2016: Free Agent

Note: In the cases of Jake Long, Trent Williams and Russell Okung, we are looking at their rookie contract. Those numbers reflect more on their draft position than their playing position.
Tossing the high and low salaries above (Jake Long and Russell Okung), we have an average of $8.35 Million.
Now I believe Ryan Clady is worth at least $8.35 Million per season, but lets look at the Broncos salary structure. John Elway has stated his order of importance to build a team has been:

  • A Franchise Quarterback
  • An Edge Pass Rusher
  • A Left Offensive Tackle
  • A Cover Cornerback

Peyton Manning is a Franchise Quarterback. In 2012 he will draw an $18 million salary.
Defensive End Elvis Dumervil is the Edge Rusher. His 2012 salary is $14 million.
If Champ Bailey isn’t a Cover Cornerback, one doesn’t exist. His 2012 salary will be $8 million (+ $1 million roster bonus due 3/15)

According to the tier of importance on the Broncos, Ryan Clady’s worth should be in the $10-12 Million per year range. That is, if the team believes he is their Left Tackle. That number also coincides with what the NFL thinks a Left Tackle is worth.
The Franchise tag for a Left Tackle has an approximate value of $9.4 million in base salary this season. With the formula for determining the franchise tag now tied to a percentage of the salary cap, that number could actually drop in 2013.

There is speculation that the Broncos could use the Franchise tag on Clady next offseason, but that would be contingent upon the team signing current tagged player, Kicker Matt Prater long term. Denver would like to sign both players to extended deals, so the will is there. Now it's up to Broncos' Director of Administration Mike Sullivan and Clady's agent, Pat Dye to see it through.

Go Broncos!

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