NFL tackles often lack the glory and prestige that flashier players like quarterbacks and running backs command. However, they occupy an extremely important position in the NFL’s hierarchy and play a huge role in keeping the quarterback safe. For that reason, tackles often command comparatively high salaries in exchange for their services.
Position and Duties
The tackle sits at the left and right end of the front line: the row of players who face off against each other across from the football field. A tackle’s job is to block the opposing player. In the case of offensive tackles, they do so to either protect the quarterback or open a lane for the running back. Defensive tackles fulfill a number of roles on the line, usually in opposition to the offensive tackle. For instance, the defensive tackle may be tasked with sacking the quarterback, or plugging the lane where the running back moves with the ball.
The tackle’s job of either protecting or stopping the player with the ball is extremely important -- particularly the left offensive tackle, who must protect the quarterback’s blind side from defenders. The importance of this role was hammered home during a 1985 game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants, when Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor sacked Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann from the blind side and shattered the man’s leg. The injury forced Theismann to retire from football, costing the Redskins their most important player. Had a left tackle been better able to cover Taylor, Theismann’s injury may have occurred.
Defensive Tackle Salaries
Salaries in the National Football League depend upon the skills and experience of the individual player. According to MSNBC, the minimum salary for an NFL rookie is $320,000; that minimum goes up the more years a player is in the league. According to Forbes, the highest paid defensive tackle in the league at the time of publication is Detroit Lions player Ndamukong Suh, who receives $8 million per year. Defensive tackles average about $1.2 million per year, according to Sports Illustrated.
Offensive Tackle Salaries
Offensive tackles are guaranteed the same minimum salary as defensive tackles: $320,000 per year their rookie season, with attendant raises each subsequent year they’ve been in the league. According to Sports Illustrated, offensive tackles average about $1.27 million per year, slightly higher than defensive tackles. Sports Illustrated also reports that the highest pair offensive tackle is Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, who receives about $8.6 million every year.