It's Time to Bring Back Jared Veldheer

With some question marks surrounding the right tackle position this season, it's time for the Green Bay Packers to bring back Jared Veldheer. 

With training camps underway, many NFL teams are currently working on reducing their roster sizes to that magic number of 80, so that when players can finally take the field, they don't have to hold split practices. However, when it comes to the Green Bay Packers, they've just made an addition.
 
It was reported by Adam Schefter on Thursday afternoon that Green Bay had claimed H-back John Lovett off of waivers from the Kansas City Chiefs. So as long as the Packers are making one addition, they might as well make one more and bring back Jared Veldheer, something that should have already taken place.
 
For the last decade in Green Bay, the right tackle position has been held down by Bryan Bulaga. And while many are quick to point out his injury history, he was an excellent tackle for a majority of that span. 
 
Unfortunately, due to cap restraints, re-signing him this offseason was likely never an option, and Bulaga now finds himself in sunny Los Angeles.
 
In his place, GM Brian Gutekunst would sign veteran and former Wisconsin Badger, Rick Wagner, to a two year - $11 million deal. This contract comes with a $4.8 million cap hit in 2020 and an out in 2021 if needed, and considering what tackles were making on the open market this offseason, this was a pretty good deal for Green Bay.
 
With that said, there's a reason Wagner was so affordable. In 2019, Wagner would appear in only 12 games due to injuries, and when he was on the field, he struggled. According to Pro Football Focus, Wagner had 467 pass-blocking attempts and allowed three sacks, four quarterback hits, and 32 total pressures. For comparison's sake, Bulaga had 612 pass-blocking snaps and gave up four sacks, four hits, along with 27 total pressures. 
 
As far as his game goes, after watching Wagner's film, Andy Herman of Packer Report pointed out that he struggles with bull-rushes, and he doesn't hold his blocks very long either. Not something we want to hear when Green Bay has a quarterback in Aaron Rodgers that likes to hang on to the football. 
 
On top of that, he's not any more athletic than Bulaga was, and he's even a downgrade from him as a run-blocker, which is something that Bulaga had issues with in recent seasons.
 
While it may seem like I'm comparing Wagner and Bulaga, that isn't my intention, and truthfully, that just isn't fair. We know that Wagner isn't the same player that Bulaga is, but in his defense, regardless of who the Packers brought in to play right tackle this season, there was a good chance that that player was going to be a downgrade from Bulaga anyways. The big question is, how much? 
 
If you're familiar with my work, well, then you know that I am quite concerned about the right tackle position heading into this season. Not just with Wagner, but with the options that Green Bay has behind him as well. 
 
There's a very real scenario that could take place this season, where Wagner either struggles or is injured. I mean, since becoming a starter in 2014, he has played all 16 games just one time. So odds are he is going to miss some time at some point this season because of an injury. 
 
And if either of these scenarios happens, who do the Packers call on to take over for him?
 
The most popular answer is likely Billy Turner, who does have tackle experience. But there were times as a guard last season where Turner was in space and struggled. Putting him out on the edge would be less than ideal. 
 
There is also Lane Taylor, who filled in admirably at tackle for a few weeks back in 2017. However, that was back in 2017. Can he be relied upon now? I'm not sure that I want to find out. 
 
Then there is Alex Light, who we saw a few times in 2019, but it didn't exactly end well for him or the Packers when he was on the field. Yosh Nijman is loaded with potential, but still an unknown. And lastly are players like Cody Conway, John Leglue, and Travis Bruffy, who all have no NFL experience at the position. 
 
Below is a look at each tackle on the Packers' roster and the number of snaps that they've taken at this position at the NFL level:
 
 
So when after the draft, Matt LaFleur tells reporters that Wagner will be competing for the starting job; my question is, against who? Barring an injury, he is going to be the Week 1 starter as I just don't see any of the other players really pushing him for playing time. But that's not good enough. Given the importance of the tackle position, along with the question marks surrounding Wagner and the overall inexperience on the roster, re-signing Veldheer at this point seems like a no-brainer. 
 
As a mid-season addition in 2019, Veldheer played a significant role at the end of the season as he filled in for Bulaga during Week 17 in Detroit as Green Bay clinched the two seed and then held his own once again two weeks later in the NFC Divisional Round against Jadeveon Clowney and Seattle. During that two-game stretch, Veldheer had 58 pass-blocking attempts and didn't give up a single sack, quarterback hit, or pressure. He also wasn't called for any penalties either. 
 
Now, I will say that if Veldheer is the Green Bay Packers' starting right tackle, over the course of an NFL season, he is going to be exposed much more than what he was in this small sample size. By no means is he a magic elixir that is going to solve Green Bay's issues at right tackle. However, he can be competition for Wagner while pushing for that starting spot, and even if ends up as a backup, he's a much better option than any of the aforementioned players above. 
 
As always, when discussing free agent acquisitions, something to be mindful of is the salary cap. By now, we are all well aware that the Packers don't exactly have a ton of space and rolling over as much cap space as possible to 2021 when Green Bay has five high-profile free agents should be on Gutey's to-do list.
 
According to Packers' cap guru Ken Ingalls, after Devin Funchess opted out, Green Bay has $12,952,399 in available space. But, as Ken has taught us, not all of that is spendable, and when he factors in the practice squad along with the 52nd and 53rd players on the roster, that figure drops to $10,273,732. 
 
So while, yes, the Packers are fairly tight up against the salary cap, signing Veldheer to a one-year deal worth a few million dollars isn't going to throw a wrench into their plans and destroy their cap situation by any means. It's a low risk, high reward deal for a player at a premium position who is familiar with the offense.
 
As I've already mentioned, this addition isn't Green Bay's saving grace on the right side of the offensive line, but what Veldheer can provide is insurance at a position with unknowns and inexperience.
 
With a soon to be 37-year-old quarterback who likes to hang on to the ball, along with an offense that uses an outside zone run scheme, which requires the tackle to seal the edge, adding Veldheer to the mix is a move that must be made. 

 

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Born and raised in Green Bay, WI and I still call it home. After my family, watching the Packers, sharing my opinions on the team through my writing and interacting with other fans is my greatest passion. You can find me on Twitter at @Paul_Bretl. 
 

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Comments (24)

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Jnixman's picture

July 31, 2020 at 02:03 pm

The Packers have a stop-gap in Wagner in place and normally when that’s done, there is at least one young rising player waiting in the wings. That person may exist among the candidates Paul listed (Nijman is intriguing) but only they know what they have. If the Packers don’t sign Veldheer, we’ll have to assume they are comfortable with their options. We’ll just have to hope they are right.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 31, 2020 at 02:13 pm

The player will be a high pick from the 2021 draft.

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gkarl's picture

July 31, 2020 at 02:42 pm

it should have and could have been a pick from TY draft. Lucas Niang was available when we picked in 3rd round. I think Deguara would still have been there in round 5.

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nostradanus's picture

July 31, 2020 at 02:28 pm

The cost of signing Veldeer and Wagner is basically the same as signing Bulaga and taking up to roster spots instead of one. No, then they should’ve just kept Bulaga

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splitpea1's picture

July 31, 2020 at 02:32 pm

It doesn't sound like a bad idea, but then again, if this is going to be a shortened or compromised season, why not give the opportunities to the players already on the roster? It seems like an ideal time to give everybody a try so we have a clear picture of what we have going forward.

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snowdog's picture

August 01, 2020 at 12:24 pm

We might not be seeing the forest because of the trees here. Flip the field of playing or not playing.i.g Starters sit. play the "next-man-up"
position, with rooks too,as the starters and so on. I would expect it to pay off in spades going forward.
Just saying

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Guam's picture

July 31, 2020 at 06:30 pm

There have been several articles recently listing reasons to bring back aging veterans (Williams, Veldheer) or add new aging veterans (Griffin). I think that ship has sailed. The Packers have had plenty of opportunity to sign veterans and have declined to do so.

Besides all of the usual reasons (slowing the development of younger players; declining ability with advancing age) for not signing aging vets, there is also a financial reason. The Packers are facing a very tough 2021 salary cap and some extra dollars in 2021 might be very helpful in resigning one or more of Clarke, Bakh, Jones, King, etc. etc. I believe teams are allowed to carryover salary cap dollars from one year to the next provided they spend the league minimum in each year. The Packers might be better off carrying over the $8 million surplus they have this year rather than spending the money on veteran backups that might not see the field. I would much rather see that money spent on Clarke or King or Bahk than on Williams, Veldheer or Griffin.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 31, 2020 at 04:20 pm

The Packers had plenty of game film of Wagner against Mack, Barr, the Smiths, and other top edge rushers. He’s a known commodity to the people running the team. The only uncertainty is in the minds of the people who haven’t studied every snap Wagner has taken over the past 5 years.

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Stroh's picture

July 31, 2020 at 04:40 pm

Very good comment. Veldheer will be on Gutey speed dial if needed. If he makes the roster at the beginning of the season his salary is guaranteed. They need every penny of cap space.

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PF4L's picture

July 31, 2020 at 03:32 pm

I thought the same exact thing about Veldheer this off season. He came very, very cheap to the Pack last season. But who knows, maybe he retired again, for the 2nd time, but this time he means it.

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TXCHEESE's picture

July 31, 2020 at 03:51 pm

Unless there's a rash of injuries, there's no big hurry to go out and sign anyone. As camps get under way and cut downs come, you may find a better option than Velheer, especially if you're thinking insurance policy. Hang on to what you have and see what happens when the pads go on. One of the young guns could come out swinging and make this a moot point.

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Stroh's picture

July 31, 2020 at 03:55 pm

No its NOT the time to bring back Veldheer. If you sign him now and he is on the 53 man roster you just guaranteed his salary. Veldheer has alot of experience and doesn't need training camp as he proved last year. If or when Wagner fails or gets hurt THAT is the time to sign him! He will get a call from the Packers if or when they need him, not before!

No reason to guarantee his salary when you don't know if you'll even need him, especially for a team like the Packers who already have salary cap issues. Veldheer isn't going anywhere, he and Tramon will be on Guteys speed dial when or if they are needed!

#THINK

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Coldworld's picture

July 31, 2020 at 06:26 pm

Bang on point. And nothing has changed at RT between now and last month.

If nothing else we need football to feed the starving minds of Packers writers!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 02, 2020 at 03:40 am

Why would his salary be guaranteed?

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Jonathan Spader's picture

July 31, 2020 at 07:46 pm

Goodbye Cole Madison

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stockholder's picture

July 31, 2020 at 07:47 pm

Gutey is doing everything on impulse now. Veldheer is done as a packer.

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jannes bjornson's picture

July 31, 2020 at 08:26 pm

Why would a veteran in the upper 30s want to play under Cov-2 conditions? They have family and are set for life financially.

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Stroh's picture

July 31, 2020 at 10:27 pm

Wgat the hell are talking about?! In impulse? Nothing the Packers or Gutey have done has been impulsive. Its all well thought out and calculated.

Veldheer will get a call if he's needed. Gutey probably has a verbal agreement with him in case he's needed.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

August 02, 2020 at 03:47 am

Veldheer has played for GB, Denver, Arizona and had a cup of coffee with NE, which just had a couple of OTs opt out. I imagine lots of GM have Veldheer on their speed dials.

I don't see any reason to believe Gute has Veldheer in his back pocket.

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mnbadger's picture

July 31, 2020 at 08:43 pm

Alot of assumptions but do we really know if he's going to play again? He hasn't retired officially, but he doesn't have to as he's a FA.
Do we know how much he wants for a one or two year deal?
Has he kept himself in shape, ready for training camp?
Does he like Green Bay? Not everyone does.
I'm hoping that Gutey knows the answers to these questions and has acted accordingly. GPG

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Stroh's picture

July 31, 2020 at 10:29 pm

Of course Gutey knows the answers to your questions. My guess is Veldheer has had this conversation with Gutey and will get a call should the need arise.

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GLM's picture

July 31, 2020 at 09:44 pm

We don't know what his asking price was, and is, but the team went in another direction. They also drafted 3 linemen, one of whom, at least, could be a starter or quality backup at T. That may take a year, so that does still raise some questions about this year. We'll have to wait and see. Be patient. We'll all be fortunate if there is even a season this year.

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MarkinMadison's picture

August 01, 2020 at 08:20 am

The Packers know what Veldheer is right now better than anyone else. Was he called for a penalty? No, but we all know that he should have been. Four years in Oakland. Four years in Arizona. One year in Denver. Four games in Green Bay (counting playoffs). I don't think teams will exploit him with a larger sample size (there is plenty of tape on him to break down). I don't think his sample size can get any larger. Father time has beat him.

P.S. Nijman is starting the year on the PUP.

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mnbadger's picture

August 05, 2020 at 08:29 am

what's wrong with Nijman?

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