The Chicago Bears have retained a key piece to their offensive line by extending left tackle Charles Leno Jr. to a four-year worth $38MM, per Mike Garafolo of NFL.com. Leno Jr. will receive a hefty amount of guaranteed money ($21.5MM).
This new deal marks a massive step up in pay for the former seventh round pick. The 25-year old left tackle has worked hard in his young NFL career to land this new contract. Before the former Boise State product signed this deal today, he had just one year left on his rookie deal at a salary of $1.797MM.
In addition, Leno was thrown into the fire when he joined the Bears, as they were going through a tough period. In the past two seasons, Leno has started 32 games for the Bears including the last 29 contests. Last year he graded out as the No. 41 tackle among 78 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.
Also, Leno has tons of room to grow and develop into a solid top ten left tackle with his age (25) and stability, plus it is hard to find good quality tackles in the open market and draft nowadays. Only a few reach the open market and the more gifted offensive tackles are drafted very early on draft day.
Finally, this is a safe gamble for the Bears, as mediocre offensive tackles are making a solid $7MM per year on average. It is safe to say that retaining and developing your own talent is a better route to go with. They are doing this with Leno hoping that he improves and goes over his potential.
Note: The Bears now have the left side of their offensive line locked up for years to come thanks to recent deals for Leno and left guard Kyle Long. Retaining these offensive line pieces will give Mike Glennon and Mitch Trubisky a chance on the gridiron to be productive.