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Packers Need to Address Depth on Offensive Line

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Packers Need to Address Depth on Offensive Line

The Green Bay Packers have a lot of needs to fill, on both sides of the ball. But one area that might not need as much work as some people think is the offensive line.

Certainly, the Packers had their fair share of issues along the offensive line in 2017, but that was mostly due to injury. Bryan Bulaga was hurt, David Bakhtiari missed games and even Kyle Murphy, who played well at the start of the season, suffered a season-ending injury.

It was a trying time along the offensive line, but at least from my perspective, the Packers don’t have as much work to do there as you might think. The most important piece is Bakhtiari, and he had another incredible season. Outside of Aaron Rodgers, there are few Ted Thompson draft picks that are as good or as valuable as Bakhtiari, a former fourth-round pick that might now be the best blindside protector in the NFL.

Green Bay also got a long-term deal done with Corey Linsley and that was important. Lane Taylor also has a few years left on his deal and Bulaga has two. That means four of the five starters from last season are locked up for at least the next two years.

The situation with Bulaga is a little tricky. He has been very injury prone and it’s possible Green Bay wants to move on, however, the fact that he is scheduled to make around $17 million over the next two years, makes him pretty affordable. And for that reason, the Packers might want to stick with him, at least for now.

Certainly, offensive tackle should be addressed at some point in the draft. More depth there is never a bad thing. Jason Spriggs hasn’t really lived up to his draft status and while Murphy has the chance to be a solid swing tackle, he might in the mix to start at guard too.

Before his injury, Murphy looked really impressive. He held his own at left tackle and played well on the right side too. He seems like a guy that could move inside and compete at right guard. In fact, that job might come down to either him or Justin McCray, another guy that played quite a bit last season. 

It’s possible that Jahri Evans returns, who knows. And it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some veteran depth at tackle, guard or center in free agency. It would have certainly helped in 2017. But to get the group playing at an elite level, it might not take a high draft pick or spending big money in free agency.

Bulaga needs to get healthy and the Packers need to bring in some kind of competition at right guard. Whether it’s a rookie, Evans or another free agent. Another reliable swing tackle is also needed, but beyond that, Green Bay is solid on the offensive line.

As long as the injury bug doesn’t come back to bite the Packers once again,  they should be fine. But that's also why adding solid, reliable depth should be the biggest item on the agenda for the offensive line this offseason.

__________________________

Chris is a sports journalist from Montana and has been blogging about the Packers since 2011. Chris has been a staff writer for CheeseheadTV since 2017 and looks forward to the day when Aaron Rodgers wins his second Super Bowl. Follow him @thepackersguru

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (37) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

dobber's picture

I think what this article tells us is that the Packers are fine on depth-type players...Murphy, McCray, Patrick, Spriggs. What they need is to identify/acquire starters. It's likely that at least one of Murphy or McCray will be tabbed to start somewhere on the right side in 2018, but they need two quality players on that side. Even if Murphy AND McCray end up starting, Spriggs is your swing tackle, Patrick can play all 3 positions inside...you just need one more talented body (and that player will likely come in the draft).

Mojo's picture

That's the way I see it too Dobber. Now what if by chance, Quenton Nelson were available at 14?

worztik's picture

You my “Rider on the Storm” friend are a dreamer like me but, it’ll never happen... too bad for us!!!!!

Turophile's picture

Never get a guard this early. That is what san Fran did with Iupati. As soon as his second contract came round the 49ers realised they didn't want to tie up the kind of money it would take to keep Iupati, and they lost him. A first pick at a non-premium position and gone in 5 years is a less than optimum use of #14............not to mention that the Packers have done pretty well with later picks (4th and 5th round) like Bakhtiari, Lang, Sitton, Linsley. Tretter.

Guard just isn't a premium position. CB is, pass rusher is, left tackle is, receiver is, quarterback definitely is.............but guard is even less important than center, who has to touch the ball every snap and call the O line signals.

John Kirk's picture

I'm not sure I agree with this philosophy, at least for our current situation. The Cowboys drafted Zack Martin at 16 and he's been an integral part of their success. This will be Year 5 for him this upcoming year and then we'll see what they choose to do with him.

Ron Wolf never prioritized G and Ted after him, but Nelson, by all accounts, is a special player at the position.

I'd take 5 years of potentially dominant G play on a team that plays in the cold come January. That's the other thing...at some positions it takes a rookie 2-3 years to get it and have value. G is not one of those positions. Nelson would step right in and could provide 5 years of incredible G play for peanuts. Given Aaron has about that long left, I'd be inclined to take Nelson at 14 believing I've got a star on my OL at a position I need for the next 5 seasons. With Aaron likely gone after 5 more seasons, you'll have all kinds of extra money to play with that you're not giving to the QB position. Plus, you're likely to need a ground game as the odds of hitting on a 3rd superstar at QB are slim.

OL play in the NFL has become a major issue over the last couple of seasons. It's getting harder and harder to find guys who are capable. Belichick has lamented the practice time issue being the cause saying the DL has an advantage over the OL due to the insufficient practice time.

It's a moot point most likely as some team is going to take Nelson before us. It may not be a premium position but when you're that good and following a BPA model some GM is going to take him up high.

Oh, and to your Iupati example... G may not be considered a sexy or premium 1st round draft position but if SF couldn't afford Iupati and we lost TJ due to money, that shows that G is a premium position or teams wouldn't be paying what they're paying in FA to get one. Again, you're going to get 5 years from Nelson for peanuts. He's worth it to me.

Oppy's picture

An Aaron Rodgers who gets the ball out on time could also help protect Aaron Rodgers.

HankScorpio's picture

When it comes to examples of how to build a successful football team, Dallas and Detroit are pretty far down the list of places I'm going to look.

Martin and Lang are both good football players and assets to their teams. But when I'm spending a top half of the 1st pick and/or doling out $8-$10 mil/yr, OG is pretty far down the list of places to look.

Josh Sitton was considered one of the best OGs in the game when the Packers released him. People are still pissed they let him go. They replaced him with an inexperienced former UDFA. And the net effect on the offense was barely detectable. Lang was not that far behind Sitton. They signed a washed up future HoFer at a bargain bin price. And the effect was barely noticeable--again. That's the reason Ron Wolf placed no huge value on OG. Maybe that the Lions and Cowboys view it differently is part of the reason they have not had more success than the modest level both have had.

John Kirk's picture

As you blast the current Cowboys, remember that they had this same philosophy back during the Jimmy Johnson years when they completely owned us and ended our seasons. Keep in mind, too, that those same Cowboys you're disparaging were the top team in the NFC two years ago in the regular season and may have been, again, had Zeke not gotten dinged for 6 games. We all know it took the best throw in playoff history to beat them two years ago down there, so it's not like we're some vastly superior team right now.

Also, just because Lane Taylor proved to be capable doesn't mean it couldn't have gone the other way. Is Lane Taylor ever going to be what Nelson is projected to be? No. You win by being better and Nelson has a real chance to be better than anyone. Lane Taylor is okay. We know we don't win with okay.

Again, I understand the philosophy on not prioritizing the G position but you do when he's that good. It makes it even better when you just so happen to have a need there, too.

Derek Barnett was 14 last season for Philly. He's getting a 3.2 million per average. Jahri was 2.4 million for us last season and in decline. I'll gladly pay the extra 800k to a mil extra for a guy who might be truly special. I do believe trench play is vital to success. An OL featuring Bakhtiari, Taylor, Linsley, Nelson and (Bulaga or ????) is a group you can win with when it comes time to face better competition.

The most important question is...when it comes time for 14 and if Nelson happens to be there is there actually a better player there than him? If not, you have to take Nelson not some defender just because our needs are greater there. I'd gladly take a BPA Round 1 QB so I'll definitely take one of the best G prospects in years.

HankScorpio's picture

"blast the Cowboys"?

A little less drama queen, please.

And please note, I didn't say I would not take an OG high or spend money on one. I said I'd prefer to do it elsewhere.

John Kirk's picture

"drama queen"? Here's what you typed:

"When it comes to examples of how to build a successful football team, Dallas and Detroit are pretty far down the list of places I'm going to look."

The quote is not an innocuous commentary on the Cowboys. It's disparaging. Perhaps, "blast" was too pejorative?

I'd prefer to do it elsewhere, too, but if one of the best prospects in years is sitting there for you and you have the added allure of it being a need why would you pass?

I'm hoping Nelson is drafted before our turn so we don't have that dilemma. I don't want to have to be critical of the organization should it pass on him.

Mojo's picture

Agree Turophile, guard is not a premium position. But for me it would be too hard to pass-up a talent this good.

Many experts believe he could end-up being the top guard in the league. Elite run blocker, good pass blocker. There are some who consider him the first or second best overall prospect in the draft - regardless of position. Imagine GB with a kick-ass premium run game to go along with ARod.

As far as team needs, I'd put pass-rusher as number one. CB is important too, but if the experts are right it would be tough for me to pass on this guy.

croatpackfan's picture

Well if you have one elite guard and pay him so, you have 4 other positions on the OL that are not that good and you pay them much less. What do you think, is that OL good or well?

I do not think so. You have to build group, not player by player. Player that steps in must be similar level as others. Than group play coherent. No player jumps out of that. OL depends more than any position on team on team work...

So, I say they will pass possibility to pick up OG that high. But, what we know. We might be surprised...

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I have trouble following this, Croat. We generally draft one OL, maybe 2, per draft. By definition, we build the OL player by player, Looking at our OL right now, Bakh jumps out, but I don't regret that we picked him and I don't advocate getting rid of him.

"Player that step in must be similar level as others." NO, no, no.

GBPDAN1's picture

As much as we need a stud pass rusher and shut down CB, I wouldn't be surprised if a stud Tackle would be taken with our #1 pick. I personally hope not ( I would like to see pass rusher at 14, if not, CB), but, with the way the RT situation played out last year, it wouldn't surprise me. Bulaga is beat up , I'm not sure Spriggs will pan out and the rest of the candidates are better suited for guard.

Protecting Rodgers is a top priority. We all saw what happens when he's not playing. Let's see what happens.

carlos's picture

Agree GBPDan

Ustabeayooper's picture

With 11 picks in the draft finding OL talent shouldn't be an issue. Stay true to your draft board. If an OL man fits take him, whether it's in the 2nd round or 7th. You are only able to keep 7 to 9 OL on the 53 man roster.It looks as though our team is pretty well set in this area. Even so, if something breaks your way in the draft take your shot. Remember we didn't need a QB when we took Rodgers.

carlos's picture

Hey, I’m still a Yooper. Eh!

Since '61's picture

Another OL alternative could be to move Bulaga to RG and to start Murphy at RT. Bulaga may return from his injury but not be able to play at the tackle spot. He has had trouble with speed rushers even before this latest injury. Never hurts to add depth in any case. Thanks, Since '61

worztik's picture

‘61... Do we ask him to take a pay cut or do we pay him as agreed upon??? I like the scenario tho...

olwig420's picture

you can't ask a player to take a pay cut and move him if you don't know for sure that he is going to struggle coming back from injury. Sure premium speed rushers give him a bit of trouble but how many right tackles in the league don't have at least some trouble with them? I know he was younger then but when he tore his other ACL in 2013 he came back to have one of his best seasons in 2014. He could come back and a few good years yet.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Banking on Murphy or McCray to start at RT is a real gamble. Moving Bulaga to RG doesn't fix RT. Probably have someone adequate at RG in the same guys we're talking about as RTs. The difference between Sitton and Taylor is noticeable.

stockholder's picture

Spriggs -the guy had all the measurements the Packers liked. Top performer at the combine. Did well at the senior Bowl. He should be able to play anywhere. Why the head case. We shouldn't have to draft anyone. After spriggs just don't think OL early!

sonomaca's picture

I’d try Spriggs at TE (or maybe even pass rusher). He was fastest offensive lineman at 2016 combine. He’d be tremendous in run game. Maybe could even catch a pass or two. He’s clearly not an offensive lineman.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I hope GB is being more realistic with its own self eval. The OL indeed has lots of probably not terrible, maybe even Ok OGs. I don't see anyone proven at RT.

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I'm surprised the article didn't mention Kofi Amichia. He may not have made the 53 last season, but he was the second-most athletic guard in that draft. Maybe he's ready to contribute after a year on the practice squad.

Doug Niemczynski's picture

Aaron Rogers run is over! One and done. Packers Superbowl runs are over and Aaron Rogers will end up with only 1 Super Bowl ring. Thanks TT, Dom Capers and Mike McCarthy.

Oppy's picture

Cry in your porridge in the corner.

You sound like a 5 year old. Grow up.

Seriously91's picture

We will draft our future RT with the 14th pick!
McGlinchey or Brown would fit perfect...forget getting a sack specialist or some stud CB or some great WR...With that high of a pick you get a guy that will protect the franchise end of story period...Wouldn’t it be nice if we could run the ball when we want to? Wouldn’t it be nice if 12 didn’t hit the ground? Oh but wait you guys want to draft the 85 bear defense this year and compete in today’s NFL....hah your fooling yourself! Great defense in that Super Bowl huh? Oh wait maybe they will change the rules to favor the defense before August?
Our best defense will be the other team knowing if they screw up 1-3 possessions they lose to our potent offense....sound good?

PackEyedOptimist's picture

I agree, and I've felt this way for a long time. When people say that TT "didn't create a good enough defense to support our all-time-great QB" I think they are looking at it the wrong way. We've watched a lot of mediocre defenders get drafted to "fix the problem defense," but what if those picks had been used to strengthen the offense? "Defense wins championships" is just another false truism. Being "the team who scores more points than the opponent" wins championships.

sonomaca's picture

Imagine if Pack had corner group of Hayward, Hyde, Randall, and King? All TT draft picks. We had draft and develop...for other teams!

PackEyedOptimist's picture

...that said, I'd prefer an actual quality TE and a receiver who can get open. I still have faith in Bulaga with Murphy as back-up, and I hope for a mid-round C/G and maybe a free agent.

Handsback's picture

Right from the get-go Green Bay needs a RT that can start on openning day. Do they have a healthy one? I think they do in Murphy. The RG position is secure and I doubt Evans will make it this year with Mcray and Patrick getting their experience last year. Can Spriggs be the main OT back-up? I don't know, but I think he will eventually be a starter quality player. His weakness is strength. It is something that he can work on and fix. Hard to fix slow slow feet, and lack of athletic ability.

The issue is that the OTs need to stay healthy and can't afford another injury attack to that position. Bulaga will be back after 8 weeks this year or so, so help is coming and Amichia will add to the inside depth.

I think Green Bay will again be looking at an OT in the middle rounds and I see Jamarco Jones from Ohio State if he slips that far and or Brandon Parker from NC A&T.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Murphy had surgery in early October on his foot. Probably means he will be available. I loved the Lowry and Murphy picks, but have to say that Murphy played his 3 games at RT, it was not all kisses and flowers. He was definitely looking up at average. Spriggs would have needed a telescope just to see average as a tackle.

Amichia needed a redshirt year. He couldn't play in the NFL. Let's see what what magic Campen worked. Amichia (like Spriggs) has physical tools.

flackcatcher's picture

(SIGH) It would be nice if the Packers did not have entire position groups wiped out by injury year after year. Outside of 2014 QB1 calf injury that year the team was fairly injury free. This team lost starters and core players every year. Even by NFL standards what happen to this team this year is absurd. Losing all your starters (expect 2) on both DB and OL is crazy. And no team can survive and win under those conditions. I wish it was only like the flu the Packers had to deal with.

sonomaca's picture

Might look at backup QB also. Lauletta from Richmond?

John Kirk's picture

Josh Sitton is a FA. Bears didn't pick up his 8 million dollar option.

He's a Florida guy. Wonder if he goes back home. Be kind of nice to see him reunite with TJ over in Detroit.

I'd rather have him than Evans.

Finwiz's picture

Well people were ripping on Thompson for that one, but it appears he made the right decision in hindsight, doesn't it?

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