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Minnesota native Turner brings flexibility, unrealized potential to Packers' offensive line

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Minnesota native Turner brings flexibility, unrealized potential to Packers' offensive line

-- Billy Turner has ties that stretch all across the NFC North.

His father, Maurice, previously served as a running back for the Minnesota Vikings before coming to Green Bay in 1985 to play three games with the Packers. Fittingly enough, doing so in a year dominated by the Chicago Bears, widely considered one of the greatest teams in league history.

Fast-forward over three decades and Maurice's son is devoted to suiting up for the team his father spent those three games with six years before Billy even opened his eyes for the first time.

The Packers signed Turner to a $28 million dollar deal for four years, making him one of their four free agents acquired in the early stages of the open market. Of this year's free-agent class, Turner, 27, is the oldest.

Alternatively, he may not have been the sexiest of their four signings either.

Turner's career history has been through the whirlwind. Whether signed, released the same week or a suitor for injured reserve, the Packers found value in the versatile offensive lineman who may very well be the team's opening-day starter at right guard. His tumultuous journey ultimately led to a significant pay-day.

“It’s definitely a positive to this -- having an organization behind you, backing you all the way and compensating you in a way that makes you feel comfortable to walk into the building every day and comfortable knowing that you’re wanted here," Turner told last week. "So it’s definitely nice to be in a place where I’m wanted, and at the same time I’m not too far from home.”

Another NFC North connection: Turner may be a Florida native, but he isn't representing purple and gold. He will, however, be tasked with protecting the Packers' franchise cornerstone in quarterback Aaron Rodgers against a stout Vikings defensive front twice a year.

Now's an opportunity to get on familiar terms with the likes of Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen.

His duty doesn't fall under just setting his feet and holding his ground -- it's a lot more complex than that. An offensive lineman in a Matt LaFleur offense has responsibilities that require him to be quick, athletic and aware. The Packers are hoping Turner can be all three.

“I’m an offensive lineman, but I don’t think that I move like an offensive lineman,” Turner said. He'll play a vital role in the zone-blocking scheme that the Packers will implement, hoping to heighten their rushing attack under LaFleur.

“I use my athleticism to my advantage, and it works well for me. So being able to move in space well and to run off the football and move guys around in the run game, I think, was part of the reason why Green Bay liked me.”

The only time Turner played a full 16-game season was last year with the Denver Broncos -- his second year with the team after ending 2017 on injured reserve with a broken hand.

An argument could be made that his career is trending upwards after the Broncos claimed him off of waivers prior to his injury. Sans that injury, Turner has shown he's more than capable of being a versatile starter along most offensive lines, and the Packers have always been intrigued by versatile linemen.

Players such as Don Barclay, Lucas Patrick and Justin McCray were all well-versed in more than one position. If anything, the Packers have far more plug-in-and-play flexibility with Turner, who has played tackle and both interior positions throughout his career.

"Obviously, I haven’t been a guy that started every single game and started on every team that he’s been a part of, but at the same time every year that I’ve been in this league, I’ve gotten better. And I think my best years are in front of me.”

The Packers have not retained Byron Bell or Adam Pankey, both of which were capable of playing more than one offensive line position as well. Bell and McCray rotated in at right guard last season, but neither one demonstrated enough promise to fill in as full-time starters.

Rodgers was sacked 51 times in 2012. He's only come remotely close to hitting that mark once when he was taken down 46 times in 2015. His highest was 49, and that came last season as a result of poor protection; a majority of it stemming from the interior, limiting Rodgers' ability to step up into the pocket.

Turner's signing doesn't mean the Packers won't prioritize selecting an offensive lineman early in April's draft. Although Turner does offer more stability than what they had in December, the Packers emptied their pockets for him, so they at least better hope he does.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (34) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

4thand1's picture

If he locks down the RG spot and improves it compared to last year, money well spent. Lets hope he improves it a lot.

The TKstinator's picture

All I want to know is, is he good at the blocking? That is key.

4thand1's picture

he likes legos

The TKstinator's picture

Also a pawsitive.

Lare's picture

I think Bakhtiari, Linsley and Turner are all athletic enough to perform well in the zone blocking scheme, not sure about Taylor and Bulaga.

We may see a few new faces on the offensive line this season, which could be a good thing as they didn't perform particularly well last season

RCPackerFan's picture

While Turner signed a 4 year 28 million dollar deal, what is the actual numbers? That is the max he could earn correct?

Anyways, Packers went out and got Turner IMO to be the starting RG. They had a huge hole there a year ago, and they went and got a guy that could be a really good fit there.

Last year with the Broncos he didn't give up a sack as an OG. Reason why i believe he will be the RG.

Packers have to hope he is the starting RG with the contract he signed. But he will have competition.

I posted this in an article yesterday.
"The competition at RG is likely to be Turner's job to lose. Which he will have some pretty strong competition for the spot.
Guys to really watch are Alex Light, Lucas Patrick, Nick Siragusa." Can add McCray to that list as well. Plus any draft pick they may have.

Hopefully Turner is the guy and locks down the RG spot!

Jonathan Spader's picture

CheesyTex's picture


As with your post yesterday, nice job.

I still can't shake the feeling that they could shift Bulaga to RG where he should be less exposed to injury. If (a big IF) Turner can handle RT, it sure gives the O Line a lot better depth -- the best of Siragusa, McCray, Patrick or Light backing up at guard if Bulaga goes down, and Bulaga to RT if Turner goes down.

And, of course, Cole Madison would be a godsend.

sam1's picture

Is there any update status on Madison? Was wondering because haven't seen or heard anything.

sam1's picture

There seems to be something wrong with someone on this sight!

jannes bjornson's picture

They probably want guards that can pull and move quickly. Bulaga should be able to pinch the corner. We should see a return of the screen game in Packerland with LeFleur.

Skip greenBayless's picture

If this guy is not starting at right guard then someone in the front office needs to be tarred and feathered down Oneida Street and fired shortly after. Everyone said they are not going to pay Breeland millions to be a backup cornerback, well I would think the same rule applies in this situation. That would be an insane amount of money to pay someone not to be a starter. Madison might as well stay home at this point. His days are over as a Packer and rightfully so.


Packer Fan's picture

We don't need an all pro to fill the hole at guard. Just not the guys we had. And he is athletic, so it fits the scheme LaFleur will run. But on the other hand, sometimes I think the complacency in the coaches didn't develop the players. Because OL many times take years to develop. This just didn't happen in Green Bay. The Dline for Green Bay is different. Montgomery did a fabulous job of developing players.

jannes bjornson's picture

When Sitton and Lang left it was the scrub patrol filling the spaces. Luckily Rodgers wasn't put out for the season in the Bear opener.

Packer Dave's picture

Hoping Taylor was more injured last year than we know. Patrick can jump in his spot if need be.

RT is where I'm concerned over the long haul. There is no way Bulaga's body holds out a whole season. We should give Spriggs one more chance this year. He came in really light for the job but is getting to a good place mass-wise. He just needs to mentally put it together, but he should thrive in a more mobile blocking scheme if that comes to fruition.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Spriggs came in and he looked the part. Looked extremely athletic for an OT. He then struggles and I start zeroing in on his feet. He seems slow or a half step slow against speed rushers. He then puts on weight last year slower yet.

Slow first step but does he have decent pick up speed to get outside for blocking? Hope so but they had better draft an OT IMO.

Nick Perry's picture

"Spriggs came in and he looked the part. Looked extremely athletic for an OT. He then struggles and I start zeroing in on his feet."

People made such a huge deal out of his combine because he was so "athletic" in those drills. I mean this dude moved like a big safety or TE but as we found out very quickly he blocked like Jane.

I can only wonder what this O-Line would look like if the Packers drafted Cody Whitehair or Joe Thuney, both excellent Guards and Thompson just stayed put and LET the Bears draft Spriggs like the rumors suggested. I know Whitehair and Thuney were both Guards in college and the Packers love drafting Tackles but... Whitehair was the top Guard prospect and was THERE...DRAFT HIM

Spriggs ain't getting it. Bulaga stays for another year and the Packers draft a replacement at 30 or 44 depending how the board falls.

Coldworld's picture

Spriggs initially lacked upper body strength if memory serves.

Nick Perry's picture

Spriggs lacks EVERYTHING!

sam1's picture

I would think this is the year for Spriggs in training camp, he either shows more or he is gone! My bet be the latter. I just don't trust or like the guy very much even as a reserve, seems not to fit the bill needed! But then I pretty much felt that way about Frackell and then he shows up mostly big! One never knows potential!

The TKstinator's picture

It’s like a box of chocolates...

PatrickGB's picture

I agree Sam. I also think that Spriggs looks better when he stays at one position. He is not versatile. Perhaps a new coach with a new scheme will help sort the decision out. Like Fack did in his first couple of years he seemed to be over thinking it.

Lare's picture

Spriggs was pretty athletic coming out of college, he may be more effective in a zone blocking scheme. I also agree with others that some OL may be more productive if they’re just left at one position. I know NFL coaches love versatility in their players, but sometimes it’s better to play one position very well as opposed to several positions average or below.

jannes bjornson's picture

He should have been released before last season.

Coldworld's picture

Versatility requires skills that aren’t required to play a single position. Some can pick up multiple positions and mentally switch back and forth while others need the consistency of a single role.

While it would be marvelous if everyone we picked was able to play a number of positions, I think we too often inhibit development at one by all the cross training.

I think Spriggs’ struggles were initially physical, but I do think this is part of the current issue. I also don’t think it is restricted to the O line, but became pervasive during MM’s tenure on both sides of the ball. Jones (ILB/safety) seems to a great example of someone who would benefit greatly from being focused on mastering one role, for example.

Yes that limits theoretical flexibility, but if it unlock’s a player’s ability there is a chance of them performing well at a position rather than the lost looks we have too often seen recently.

Thebearsstillsuck's picture

Byron Bell was not capable of playing any positions on the offensive line. Fixed that for you. And as far has the fact that he might be the opening day starter at right guard, he better have a starting position on this line. I hope he is absolutely nothing like Barclay, Patrick or McCray. For that kind of money, I really, really hope hes good enough at one position to stay there. You don't pay that kind of money for a versatile backup

sam1's picture

My guess he was tapped for that exact reason, shore up one position and use some others as swing versatile oline men.

jannes bjornson's picture

We'll see who Gutey brings in this draft an OT high is a necessity. A guard from the three or four pick would be lovely. Don't get my hopes up with UDFAs filling spots full time. Athletically they are challenged.

Thebearsstillsuck's picture

I'd love to see a 1st or 2nd round tackle, whose sole job is to be RT when Bulaga gets hurt and not play inside when someone else gets hurt. I'd also be fine with a 3rd or 4th rounder as well on a swing guard, backup at multiple positions kind of guy.

stockholder's picture

I'm all for putting Turner at Rt now. Cut Bulaga! We need more Cap. He's used up. Sorry but it's time to part ways.

jannes bjornson's picture

For 8M he's fine. Just get a guy to groom for next year with the Talent to cover BOTH tackle spots as a backup this year. I really don't want to go over the tape of the past two years to expalin why.

porupack's picture

well, no. No evidence that he is used up and probably not used up. If you have a good lineman, keep him in until its pretty clear he isn't, especially if sure-bet draft slots are needed for other positions. Good strategy to keep him, while drafting his replacement for next year.

Coldworld's picture

Conceivably turning a starting caliber guard into a mediocre right tackle and a hole at RG.

I’d rather stick with a good when healthy RT and a RG who can fill in a tackle if necessary. Let’s not dig holes we don’t need to.

Now let’s draft a tackle and guard this year to increase our options for the future.

4thand1's picture

Turner looks like Ice T, nasty.

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