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The Curious Case of a Teven Jenkins Contract Extension

Teven Jenkins could receive a contract extension this offseason, but will he?

Chicago Bears v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Todd Rosenberg/Getty Images

Is there a Chicago Bears fan that exists who doesn’t love Teven Jenkins?

He’s one of the most popular offensive linemen I can ever remember being in a Bears uniform. Sure, there are guys like Kyle Long, Olin Kreutz, and James “Big Cat” Williams, but Jenkins's popularity feels just as strong as those great players.

Jenkins’ three years in Chicago have been interesting. His first season was almost completely wiped out by a back injury. His second season (first with the Ryan Poles regime) started off with him in the doghouse and being told he was switching to guard. He wasn’t named a starter at the beginning of the season but eventually got an opportunity and never relinquished his position.

This past season, Jenkins really came into his own. He missed the first four games due to a calf injury, but only missed one more game the rest of the way and became a dominant run blocker and an inconsistent but reliable pass blocker.

Even the first year back injury aside, Jenkins has missed 9 games over the last two seasons, but he’s been quite effective when he’s played. That leaves Ryan Poles with a difficult decision: does he extend a player who, when he plays, is probably one of the top ten guards in the entire NFL? Or does he let a very talented player walk because the most important ability in the NFL is availability?

That decision will be heavily tied to just how much Jenkins camp wants with the contract. If Jenkins asks for a high guarantee, there’s no way that Poles is going to consider that an option. You have to figure that any extension tied to Jenkins could be easily exited after two seasons. That means on a four-year contract, guaranteeing any more than roughly two years would be a non-starter.

While Jenkins camp may realize that, they also may want to push for guaranteed dollars because of that injury risk that Jenkins certainly knows he holds.

Ryan Poles could very easily decide that, even if he wants to extend him, he may want to wait until after this season because any extension agreed to here, would be tacked on after the 2024 season. If two years of that contract were guaranteed, in essence, Jenkins would have a three-year guaranteed deal. Would the Bears be comfortable with a heavy guarantee for Jenkins during the 2026 season before he’s played 2024? That’s probably a tough one for Poles to swallow.

If they decide to wait a year, there’s risk involved from the Bears side. Look at Jaylon Johnson. Johnson wanted to be extended prior to the season but his camp and Poles were far off on numbers. Johnson circled back about an extension at the trade deadline and they were still far apart on numbers, and now Johnson is looking at a franchise tag or an extension probably $5 million more per year than he would have been paid in August.

If Jenkins comes into 2024 and plays 16 or 17 games and has a dynamite season, his contract demands will skyrocket. While certainly that’s a good problem to have, it can be avoided if you roll the dice on an extension this offseason.

If you’re thinking about the franchise tag, offensive linemen are all lumped together, so tagging a guard is something that’s rarely done. A franchise tag for Jenkins in 2025 would be north of $22 million per season, that’s more than the highest paid guard in the NFL, Chris Lindstrom, is paid by the Atlanta Falcons ($20.5 million AAV).

The starting point for a negotiation with Jenkins is probably $16 million per year. Assuming the Bears and Jenkins would be looking at a four-year deal, the Jenkins extension, if they do something straightforward and not too creative (which is what Poles seems to prefer), an extension similar to the Green Bay Packers Elgton Jenkins seems like it might be agreeable. Green Bay’s Jenkins received a four-year deal worth $68 million.

If those parameters are settled, would the Bears be willing to guarantee Jenkins $35 million? Would they rather guarantee something around $25 million and have an easier opportunity to exit the contract if need be? Would Jenkins be open to that?

It’s a fascinating question and one that is nearly impossible to answer at this point. So far, Cairo Santos and Cole Kmet are two Ryan Pace players that Poles has given multiyear extensions to. Jaylon Johnson should be next. Will Jenkins be the fourth?

A prediction? Jenkins does not receive an extension prior to the start of the 2024 season. If he plays well and stays healthy, he’s extended in November of 2024. If his play suffers or the injuries continue to mount, Poles makes the tough choice to let him leave via free agency after this season.