T.J. Lang was surprised that Detroit made an eleventh-hour offer.
The eight-year right guard was set to sign with Seattle, especially after the Lions just signed right tackle Ricky Wagner to a five-year, $47.5 million deal — making him the highest paid right tackle in 2017 cash rankings according to Spotrac.com.
Yet, Detroit showed how much they value protecting Matthew Stafford is by giving Lang a three-year, $28.5 million contract — including $19 million guaranteed. Those are big numbers for a 29-year-old guy that had foot and hip surgeries in January.
The Packers did offer Lang, but it was shy of what Detroit will pay — a three-year, $21.5 million offer with $6.5 million guaranteed.
I don’t have a problem with what the Packers offered. Nobody knows if he can maintain being Pro Football Focus’ No. 9 offensive lineman with injuries in his foot and hip.
But then a Detroit sports talk show host asked Lang about the Packers’ thriftiness and Lang didn’t hold back.
“I think just throughout the years they were able to get some guys back in town because they used the whole, we’re good, we’re competitive, we compete for championships every year. Do you want to play with the best quarterback in the NFL-type thing, you’re going to have to take a little less money, and I think it just kind of wore some guys out the last couple years and watching guys leave. But it was a luxury that for a long time they were able to have. And they’re still going to be fine, they’re still going to compete, they’re still going to be a hell of a team, but it is what it is. It’s just a business and the older you get, the more you play, the more you understand it.”
The first time I read that quote I thought arrogance. The Packers continue to use the excellence of Aaron Rodgers as a way to balance the books. Lang has been in Green Bay for eight years, is he predicting the future? Are players getting tired of being expected to take less to play on a team that has the best passer in the league and is the pick every summer to win the NFC North?
But it’s a slippery slope to leverage that success against future contracts. Obviously, many players would lay in traffic to play for Green Bay. The Packers play their home games in a crown jewel and the last time they missed the playoffs was in 2008.
Perennial doormats like the Browns, Bears, Jaguars and Jets have to overpay. All those franchises haven’t been to the postseason in the last five years. Players know they aren’t going there to win games — they go there to get a payday.
While it’s great for general manager Ted Thompson to save money whenever he can, maybe players are getting tired of being asked to take less just because they play for the Packers. That’s a tough balancing act for any general manager. How do you keep your head above the cap and stay out of salary cap hell while also wooing players to come play for you?
I just wonder if Lang’s signing with the Lions is an outlier or the start of a domino to fall. Lang voiced something that many people didn’t realize was an issue.
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