NFL free agency: Ryan Clady holds biggest contract, expectations among tackles

Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE

The Denver Broncos paid up to keep Ryan Clady protecting Peyton Manning. How does his deal look compared to those signed by other teams for elite offensive tackles?

It was a good offseason for offensive tackles, as the league continues to reward the big guys responsible for ensuring quarterbacks stay healthy. The thirst for tackles extended to the draft too. The first two names off the board selected at the 2013 NFL Draft were offensive tackles, as were three of the first four.

And that summer got better with a big deal for Ryan Clady on Sunday. The Broncos paid up to make sure Peyton Manning stays safe, immediately launching Clady to the top of the board for tackles. His was the biggest deal in a lucrative offseason for tackles, with the Giants and Colts ponying up to retain Will Beatty and Gosder Cherilus, and the Rams and Bears going out and getting Jake Long and Jermon Bushrod.

Here's a rundown of the biggest deals handed out to offensive tackles, to see how each team's deal stacks up against the one Denver gave to Clady, as well as why teams made their moves, and what they're expecting from their investments.

Ryan Clady, Denver Broncos

Five years, $57.5 million, $33 million guaranteed
Clady was the clear winner this offseason among offensive tackles. His deal comes out the to more than $10 million per season, with a hefty $33 million guaranteed. Clady earned it by keeping Peyton Manning clean last season. Manning was sacked just 21 times despite 583 pass attempts, giving him a better sack/attempt ratio than any other qualifying quarterback outside of brother Eli Manning.

Jake Long, St. Louis Rams

Four years, $34 million, $20 million guaranteed
Jake Long, a former No. 1 overall pick, could have topped this list if it was written this time last year. Unfortunately for him, his effectiveness has declined that last two seasons, both of which have ended on injured reserve. It is hard to argue with $8.5 million per season, however. Clearly, the Rams believe that Long can return to All-Pro form and be a massive asset to Sam Bradford.

William Beatty, New York Giants

Five years, $37.5 million, $19 million guaranteed
Eli Manning was sacked just 19 times in 536 pass attempts last season, thanks in large part to Beatty. He will be paid handsomely as a result, though not quite in Clady's stratosphere. Beatty is just 28 years old at the end of his rookie contract. If not for 14 missed regular season game over the course of 2010 and 2011, he could have garnered an even better deal.

Jermon Bushrod, Chicago Bears

Five years, $35.965 million, $16.715 million guaranteed
Bushrod was signed away from the cap-strapped New Orleans Saints to help a Bears offensive line in desperate need of help. The team will replace four starters from a unit that gave up 44 sacks last season, more than all but seven team in the league. Bushrod has a chance to make an immediate impact, and could make his third straight Pro Bowl if the Bears shown any signs of improvement.

Gosder Cherilus, Indianapolis Colts

Five years, $34.5 million, $15.5 million guaranteed
Cherilus graded out as the second best right tackle in the NFL last season, according to Pro Football Focus. He should be significant upgrade to an offensive line that couldn't really protect Andrew Luck or provide much of push for the running game. Also a bonus for the Colts: Cherilus has started 71 of a possible 75 games in his five-year career, according to Stampede Blue.

Sam Baker, Atlanta Falcons

Six years, $40.85 million, $14.25 million guaranteed
Baker finally turned the corner in 2012. A first-round draft pick in 2008 out of USC, Baker had to miss time due to three back surgeries, and sometimes played ineffectively when healthy, losing his starting spot during the 2011 season to Will Svitek in 2011. But this past year, Baker was healthy and played like a franchise tackle, with Atlanta only allowing 28 sacks -- seventh fewest in the league.

Phil Loadholt, Minnesota Vikings

Four years, $25 million, $7 million guaranteed
Blocking for Adrian Peterson is kind of important, and the Vikings realized that. With left tackle Matt Kalil signed through 2016 last offseason, the Vikes backed up the Brinks truck (to use the phrase The Daily Norseman used) by making Loadholt the third-highest-paid right tackle in the NFL. Loadholt's been remarkably consistent for Minnesota, starting at right tackle in 66 of the 67 regular season and postseason games the team has played since drafting him in the second round in 2009.

Andre Smith,Cincinnati Bengals

Three years, $18.1 million, $5 million guaranteed
The sixth overall pick in 2009, Smith's time in Cincinnati has been rocky, and so was his negotiation. He never really showed out in his first two years, but finally won the starting right tackle job in 2011. And in 2012 -- his contract year -- he was a revelation, with Pro Football Focus grading him as the top right tackle in the league. But the Bengals were left wondering whether a player with a history of weight and motivational issues was worth the money, leading to negotiations that was prolonged and kinda ugly, as Cincy Jungle wrote. But Smith is back, and has a chance to continue on his work from last year and prove why he was so highly touted out of Alabama.

Sebastian Vollmer, New England Patriots

Four years, $16.75 million, $8.25 million guaranteed
By paying Vollmer a pretty reasonable amount, the Pats continue their trend of being loyal to their linemen. They'll bring back all five of their starting offensive linemen in 2013 from a unit that allowed the sixth-fewest sacks in the league despite attempting the fourth-most passes.Vollmer had arthroscopic knee surgery in the offseason, but he's expected to be good to go, and the savvy and elite Patriots continue their habit of being savvy and elite.

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