David Bakhtiari was a considerably richer man when he made his return to the football field on Sunday.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the Green Bay Packers agreed to a four-year, $105.5 million contract extension with their All-Pro left tackle, making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the league. He was due to become one of the Packers’ biggest free agents in the 2021 offseason and is now signed through the 2024 season.
Rapoport also revealed Bakhtiari is receiving a $30 million signing bonus — the largest ever given to an offensive lineman — and could earn at least another $30 million in roster bonuses over the next few years. He stands to make more than $60 million in guarantees before the end of the 2022 season.
Bakhtiari himself confirmed his extension with the Packers when he spoke with reporters following Sunday’s 24-20 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, saying the negotiations “came down to the wire” on Saturday night and got done just before midnight. Though he said there were times where he wasn’t sure if a deal would be reached over the past several months, he never lost interest in remaining in Green Bay.
“I think that happens,” Bakhtiari said in Sunday’s postgame. “This is now my second time doing it with them. I think it’s the normal negotiation, but the one thing I think we had in common was we did want to reach an agreement. I wanted to be here and they wanted me to be here, so I think that goal was strong enough to bridge the gaps.”
Bakhtiari was also back in the starting lineup Sunday for the first time since breaking his ribs in Week 6’s loss in Tampa Bay. He was forced to sit out the past three games as the Packers exhibited caution with one of their top offensive weapons, snapping his streak at 50 consecutive starts dating back to the 2017 season.
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Bakhtiari Gets Emotional Talking About Packers
It isn’t often Bakhtiari finds himself tearing up during postgame interviews, but Sunday’s questions from reporters about what it means to be able to remain with the Packers did bring out some still-fresh emotions from the veteran tackle.
“I’ve never really wanted to say that I get to be a Packer for life, but that is something that is really becoming true,” Bakhtiari told reporters Sunday. “And I control that now — to finish it out and stay in one spot. This place is very special to me and I’ve given them all of me since Day 1. I would like to continue that. And, like I told them, they won’t regret it. They didn’t in ’13, they didn’t in ’16 and they’re not gonna regret it in ’20, and I’m going to live up to my end of the bargain.”
The Packers saw greatness in Bakhtiari coming out of Colorado, where he had forgone his senior season following 1-11 season and declared for the 2013 NFL draft. He was drafted in the fourth round and viewed early on as a depth piece, but an injury to Bryan Bulaga and strong preseason effort pushed him into the starting lineup. He went on to become the only NFL rookie to start all 16 games at left tackle that season.
Since then, the Packers have continued to reinvest in Bakhtiari at every turn. They awarded him a four-year, $48 million contract extension at the beginning of his fourth season, making him one of the NFL’s highest-paid left tackles at the time. He has also returned the kindness with excellent play (a four-time All-Pro and two-time Pro Bowler) and consistent availability that earns linemen the big bucks in the NFL.
Midway through his eighth NFL season, Bakhtiari has only missed nine career starts counting his most recent stretch of absences this season. He has also consistently proved to be one of the top pieces of Aaron Rodgers’ protection crew with ESPN’s pass-blocking metrics ranking him the top offensive tackle in 2019 (96% win rate). They currently have him at No. 5 for the 2020 season with a 94% pass-blocking win rate.
“I’m going to drink a lot of beer (tonight),” Bakhtiari said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”