PHOENIX – PHOENIX -- The thinking that went into the Texans’ expensive financial commitment to Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil had a ripple effect beyond the money and into what it means for the entire franchise.
By making Tunsil the highest paid left tackle in the NFL for the second time with a three-year, market-resetting $75 million contract extension that includes a $30 million signing bonus and $60 million total guaranteed, the Texans are signaling how much they value having elite pass protection for a potential rookie quarterback. Both Alabama quarterback Bryce Young or Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, or any quarterback, has a cleaner pocket and more time to set up their throws behind Tunsil, an athletically gifted and technically sound veteran blocker who allowed just one sack last season as the highest rated pass protection in the NFL.
And Texans coach DeMeco Ryans reflected on the significance of extending Tunsil’s contract Monday morning at the NFL owners meetings.
“We’re excited to extend Laremy,” Texans coach DeMeco Ryans said at the Biltmore Hotel. “Laremy is one of the best tackles in the NFL. I feel like playing this game that we play, you have to win on the line of scrimmage. That’s the defensive line, that’s the offensive line. Anytime you can shore up a very important position, the left tackle position, and shore it up with a top quality player in Laremy, it’s beneficial to our entire team.”
PHOENIX --#Texans coach DeMeco Ryans on signing Laremy Tunsil @KingTunsil78 to $75 million extension that makes him the highest paid left tackle in #NFL 'beneficial to our entire team' @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/EdXQ5euLuy— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) March 27, 2023
Standing in a hallway inside NRG Stadium last week, Tunsil was accompanied by his family and tight inner circle after making history for the second time with a groundbreaking extension.
His mother and son were with him along with his advisors Saint Omni and Laolu Sanni, who helped him negotiate a deal without an agent to earn a $30 million signing bonus and $60 million total guaranteed. Tunsil reflected on how unique his individual situation is, a tale of player empowerment and an untraditional approach to business for one of the most gifted pass protectors in the league.
Stonewalling pass rushers as the top-ranked pass protector in the league with his rare athleticism, willpower and blocking skills, Tunsil doesn’t follow a cookie-cutter style. He does things differently, on his terms.
“I did it my way exactly, like Frank (Sinatra),” Tunsil told KPRC 2 following a press conference to celebrate his new contract. “I check all the boxes. That’s my biggest thing just staying consistent whatever I’m doing. I’m a businessman, I’m a CEO of a business operation ‚be consistent with that. I’m a football player, be consistent with that. It sounds so crazy to say that, but I built this business team around me. You can tell how successful we are. We’re making history for the second time.”
For Tunsil, 28, a native of Lake City, Fla. and a former Miami Dolphins first-round draft pick acquired by the Texans in a blockbuster trade by former Texans coach and general manager Bill O’Brien in exchange for two first-round draft picks and one second-round selection in 2019, sharing this moment with his tight inner circle was significant.
“‘It means a lot,” Tunsil said. “To see how happy they are, to see me successful in the league, to get paid a second time, it means a lot just to have them around. .. I always wanted to be the CEO of my business team. I always wanted to be the guy that leads my team.
“So, I hired the team, which includes Saint Omni, Laolu Sanni and Alexandra (Meaza, the founder and CEO of Desta Marketing). I wanted to do something that has never happened before. Making history for the second time in a row, nobody has ever done that besides me. I always wanted to be the leader to start something new, and that’s what I did.”
Tunsil has a detailed vision of building a strong personal legacy, a winning one that goes beyond how he routinely frustrates the top defensive ends in the NFL.
Beyond his unique business strategy after previously having a formal agent at the start of his career, Tunsil envisions himself in a leadership role. He was named a team captain last season by former coach Lovie Smith. The deep respect that Tunsil commands in the locker room and in the community through his devotion to philanthropy, especially causes that benefit single mothers, resonates strongly.
“I view myself as the X-factor for this entire team and a mentor,” Tunsil said. “For the young guys like Jalen Pitre, Dameon Pierce and Kenyon Green, I view myself as a mentor. Like a captain, a captain-role. I want to help those guys in any way that I can. Whenever they need me, they can hit me up. If they’ve got any questions, they can hit me up. I’m here for those guys. I’m here for this team.”
Signed to a record-setting three-year, $66 million in 2020, Tunsil has accomplished a lot individually. During his four seasons with the Texans, they qualified for the playoffs in his first season. Since that year, though, the Texans have won just 11 games over the ensuing three seasons despite his excellence as a blocker.
Tunsil, though, is optimistic that general manager Nick Caserio and new coach DeMeco Ryans are about to reverse the Texans’ fortunes after going 3-13-1 last season under Smith.
“I believe this organization is going to turn around quickly, actually,” Tunsil said. “This organization is on the uprise, especially getting a guy like DeMeco Ryans, a younger, high-energy guy, and he was actually a player here, as well. Getting a guy like that coming into this building means a lot. We’re trying to get this thing turned around.”
Caserio has been extremely active in free agency, adding wide receivers Robert Woods and Noah Brown, defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, tight end Dalton Schultz, running back Devin Singletary, safety Jimmie Ward and linebacker Denzel Perryman. Plus, the Texans traded for offensive guard Shaq Mason. The Texans have significant draft capital, including five of the top 75 picks with the second and 12th overall selections.
“The free agents that Nick has signed, he’s cooking right now,” Tunsil said. “He’s really cooking. He’s got some great players coming into the locker room to also contribute to the team and help them win. The sky is the limit for us. We can really get this organization back on track and get it rolling. I believe in Nick and the front office to draft the best player in the draft and help us win games.”
One of the reasons why Tunsil got such a big contract is the value of the left tackle position, the blindside protector for a quarterback. Should the Texans draft Alabama quarterback Bryce Young or Ohio State quarterback C.J. Stroud, whose Pro Days they’re attending, Tunsil will be counted on to protect them. It’s akin to a valuable car insurance policy. Tunsil protects the high-end Lamborghini.
That’s why he landed a deal that included $50 million fully guaranteed. He has manageable salary-cap figures, too.
“I’m showing those guys that it’s possible,” Tunsil said. " If you stay consistent, if you work hard, the sky is the limit. The sky is the limit man. I’m thankful just to be in this position to mentor those guys and show those guys that the sky is the limit. Whatever you put your mind to, you can get it done.”
Tunsil’s salary cap figure is down to $26.61 million from a previous $35 million for this year with salary cap figures of $25.9 million in 2024, $28.85 million in 2025 and $28.85 million in 2026. His salaries are fully guaranteed for skill, injury and salary cap in 2023 and 2024 with $2 million and $18 million, and $10 million of his $20.95 million base salary guaranteed for injury in 2025 and a nonguaranteed $20.95 million in 2026.
He has a $10 million injury guarantee in 2025, which is fully guaranteed the 5th day of the 2024 league year. He has a total of $250,000 in per game active roster bonuses annually ($14,706 per game active), and $150,000 annual workout bonuses.
“Unbelievable, we did it again,” Tunsil said. “Special moment, for sure.”
Talks accelerated fast and were completed during a two-day period last weekend as he reset the market again. Because of Tunsil’s age, health and devotion to conditioning, large future paydays are regarded as likely. There are more bites of the NFL financial apple ahead of Tunsil.
“The process was smooth,” Tunsil said. “Nick and DeMeco, we wanted to get this done. They were very adamant about getting this deal done, and we got it done. I built this team to make things easy for me. I have Saint Omni. I have Laolu Sanni.
“If I had any questions about the contract, I’d just hit those guys up and be like, ‘How do you feel about this?’ or ‘How do you feel about this?’ We got it done pretty quick, man. It didn’t take long. It was very easy.”
Tunsil was the highest graded pass blocker in the NFL with a 90.9 Pro Football Focus analytics grade. He allowed just one sack all season, and that was in the first game of the season against the Indianapolis Colts.
Staying with the Texans was what Tunsil always wanted. He said throughout the season he hoped for a new contract and expressed his commitment to the organization and the city of Houston. Tunsil has put down roots here in Texas.
‘Man, I’m glad to be here with H-Town for another four years,” Tunsil said. “It was very important to stay here. I consider this home. I built relationships with the coaches. I built relationships with the players. I built relationships with the front office. I built relationships with you guys. So just staying here, talking to you guys daily, talking to my teammates daily, talking to the coaches, it means a lot.”
Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com