Charles Leno

Bears To Extend LT Charles Leno Jr.

The Bears and left tackle Charles Leno Jr. are closing in on four-year, $38MM extension, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets. The deal includes $21.5MM in guarantees. "<strong

[RELATED: Bears Sign LB Kelvin Sheppard]

The new pact marks a massive step up in pay for the former seventh round pick. Prior to today’s agreement, he had just one year left on his rookie deal at a salary of $1.797MM.

Leno, 25, has started 32 games for the Bears over the past two seasons, including the last 29 contests. Last year he graded out as the No. 41 tackle among 78 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. He may not be a superstar, but it’s getting harder and harder to find quality tackles. Leno offers stability and youth at a time when some older mediocre tackles are making north of $7MM/year.

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. Starting to the right of those two will be center Cody Whitehair, Josh Sitton, and Bobby Massie. The Bears hope that they have the building blocks in place for an O-Line that can adequately protect Mike Glennon in 2017 and Mitch Trubisky in future seasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC Notes: Giants, Saints, Bears, Vikings

Veteran signal-caller Josh Johnson is likely to emerge as the Giants‘ backup quarterback in 2017, which means free agent signee Geno Smith is in danger of being released, according to Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com. Johnson spent the entire 2016 campaign with Big Blue, and though he was only for two games, he earned the trust of Giants’ coaches. New York, meanwhile, would only incur $325K in dead money by parting ways with Smith. Third-round pick Davis Webb, of course, is slated to open the season as the Giants’ third-string quarterback.

  • The Saints have now signed every member of their 2017 draft class aside from first-round offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk, and the Wisconsin product’s deal is on hold until he can pass a physical, reports Nick Underhill of the Advocate (Twitter links). Ramczyk, the 32nd overall selection, is dealing with a hip issue. New Orleans had been one of two clubs (along with the Rams) that hadn’t signed a draft pick before yesterday, and the reason for that delay was fiscal. The Saints picked up $7.8MM in cap space Thursday when Jairus Byrd‘s post-June 1 release was officially processed, giving the team a bit more breathing room to sign its rookies.
  • While the Bears “would like nothing more” than to extend left tackle Charles Leno, it’s unclear if Chicago plans to open contract talks before the season gets underway, as Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. Leno, 25, is certainly a success story, as the former seventh-round pick has started 32 games for the Bears over the past two seasons. He’s steadily improved, as well, and last year graded as the No. 41 tackle among 78 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus. Chicago will get a relative bargain on Leno in 2017, as he’s due a base salary of only $1.797MM. A long-term deal could easily take Leno over the $10MM per year barrier, if not higher.
  • Michael Floyd‘s one-year deal with the Vikings doesn’t contain any guaranteed money, but the veteran wideout can earn a pay bump through several incentives, as Ben Goessling of ESPN.com details. If Floyd maxes out his incentive-based by reaching 70 catches, 1,000 yards, or 12 touchdowns, he’ll bring in an extra $4.6MM. The bonuses start at $1.5MM, which Floyd can earn by hitting 40 receptions, 500 yards, or six touchdowns. None of that incentive money is on Minnesota’s salary cap for now, as it’s all considered “not likely to be earned” because Floyd didn’t reach even the lowest thresholds in 2016. Additionally, Floyd could struggle to hit the top rung of his incentive ladder given that he’s expected to face a suspension in 2017.

2017 Proven Performance Escalators

According to the NFL’s contractual bargaining agreement, players drafted in rounds three though seven are entitled to raises during the fourth year of their respective rookie contracts. The pay bumps are tied to playing time — a player must have played in 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of his first three seasons, or averaged 35% playing time cumulatively during that period.Donte Moncrief (Vertical)

If one of these thresholds is met, the player’s salary is elevated to the level of that year’s lowest restricted free agent tender — that figure should be around $1.8MM in 2017. Players selected in the first or second round, undrafted free agents, and kickers/punters are ineligible for the proven performance escalator.

Here are the players who will see their salary rise in 2017 courtesy of the proven performance escalator:

49ers: Aaron Lynch, LB; Marcus Martin, OL

Bears: Charles Leno, T; Will Sutton, DT

Bengals: Russell Bodine, C

Bills: Preston Brown, LB; Seantrel Henderson, T

Broncos: Michael Schofield, OL

Browns: Christian Kirksey, LB

Buccaneers: Kevin Pamphile, G

Cardinals: John Brown, WR

Chiefs: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, G; Zach Fulton, G; Phillip Gaines, CB

Colts: Donte Moncrief, WR

Cowboys: Anthony Hitchens, LB

Falcons: Devonta Freeman, RB

Giants: Devon Kennard, LB

Jaguars: Aaron Colvin, CB; Brandon Linder, G; Telvin Smith, LB

Lions: Nevin Lawson, CB; Travis Swanson, C

Packers: Corey Linsley, C; Richard Rodgers, TE

Panthers: Tre Boston, S; Trai Turner, G

Raiders: T.J. Carrie, CB; Justin Ellis, DT; Gabe Jackson, G

Rams: Maurice Alexander, S; E.J. Gaines, CB

Redskins: Bashaud Breeland, CB; Spencer Long, G; Morgan Moses, T

Texans: C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE; Andre Hal, S

Titans: DaQuan Jones, DL; Avery Williamson, LB

Vikings: Shamar Stephen, DT

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Titans, Ravens, Draft Visits

Titans edge defender Kamerion Wimbley agreed earlier this week to restructure his contract, and Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap.com has the breakdown of what Wimbley’s new deal looks like. However, as Fitzgerald details, Wimbley wasn’t the only Titan to rework his contract this week. Tight end Craig Stevens also has a new 2014 cap figure, reducing his overall base salary by $1.7MM in exchange for a $500K guarantee. While Stevens’ 2015 salary remains unchanged, his ’14 cap number is now only about $2.69MM.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Ravens haven’t had an above-average, long-term solution at right tackle for a number of years, and Mike Preston of the Baltimore Sun believes the team would be wise to address the position with its first-round pick this year. That’s one of a handful of topics Preston addresses in his Ravens notebook, which also touches on the club’s recent tight end and running back signings.
  • The Bills are eyeing a pair of offensive line prospects today, hosting Mississippi State’s Charles Siddoway for a pre-draft visit (Twitter link via Mike Rodak of ESPN.com) and having dinner tonight with Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews (Twitter link via Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 AM).
  • Having already met with the Steelers, Michigan State cornerback Darqueze Dennard now has visits lined up with the Jets, Bengals, and Rams, as he said today on SiriusXM NFL Radio (Twitter link).
  • Another cornerback, Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, also has a handful of visits scheduled with AFC teams, according to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. Fuller will meet with the Colts, Bengals, Raiders, Jets, Broncos, and Bears, says Wilson.
  • The Chargers will work out Troy quarterback Deon Anthony on April 22, reports Wilson at the National Football Post.
  • More from Wilson (via Twitter): The Patriots are working out Boise State’s Geraldo BoldewijnMatt Paradis, and Charles Leno on Wednesday, while Virginia-Lynchburg cornerback Keith Lewis visited the Raiders and has a private workout lined up next week with the Chiefs (Twitter link).