The Bears locked up their left tackle Charles Leno Jr. Wednesday afternoon, signing him to a 4-year extension worth $38M, $21.5 guaranteed.
Leno, seventh round pick in 2014, is projected be the 14th highest paid left tackle in the league based on his annual earnings. The Boise State product is also just one of six players to remain from Phil Emery’s regime as the Bears general manager.
“We were so fortunate to come into him,” Pace said early in the offseason. “He’s got great athleticism. He’s long. I like Leno a lot. I like his makeup. I like his intelligence.”
As many would agree, Leno showed inconsistency last season. His run blocking is close to elite but pass blocking had some rough spots. But the Bears are all in on Leno, and showed that with locking him up going into the last year of his rookie deal.
Leno is locked up with the Bears through 2021, and so is left guard Kyle Long. The Bears made the switch going into camp, moving Josh Sitton to the right side and Long to the left. Now the Bears have their duo in place for years ahead.
Adam Jahns of the Chicago Sun-Times makes a great point. The Bears offensive line, even when banged up, were excellent in the run game leading to a great year for rookie running back Jordan Howard.
The left tackle position is one that his highly valued in the NFL. Trent Williams, the left tackle for the Washington Redskins, earns an annual salary of $13.6M making him the highest paid at the position. Leno Jr. now ranks 15th in the league. It’s a big job to protect your quarterbacks blindside and organizations know that. And that is why they get the big contracts. Elite left tackles are rare and when you find a guy you like, you better hold onto him.
Bears GM Ryan Pace continues to make it HIS team. He has completely flipped the roster, drafted upside and has been conservative in free agency. Pace has made it known who he really likes and speaks highly of them, Leno included. And the best example of this is the 2017 draft. Not a lot of people knew who Adam Shaheen or Tarik Cohen were until their name was called. And with that, it left fans furious and confused on what the Bears were doing. But Pace did not care. He had his grades on players and drafted his guys to build his team. And extending Leno Jr. contract is a great example of this.
Leno becomes just the second 7th round pick in Bears history to sign a second contract with the team. In today’s NFL, a lot of 7th round picks do not make the team. Why? Once you get to the lower rounds of the NFL draft, the talent lessens. But Leno Jr turns out to be a special case, now a starting left tackle in the NFL making $8.797 million per year.