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Packers Rants & Raves: T.J. Lang's Return

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Packers Rants & Raves: T.J. Lang's Return

When T.J. Lang was drafted by the Green Bay Packers in the fourth round of the 2009 draft, he was an offensive tackle coming out of Eastern Michigan and was thought to be the eventual replacement for one of Mark Tauscher or Chad Clifton.  Both Tauscher and Clifton were solid tackles for the Packers during their respective careers, but their time was coming to a close and the team wanted to groom a replacement.  After a few stints in spot duty at tackle during his rookie season, Lang did anything but instill confidence that he was going to enjoy a decade-long career as a book end on the offensive line.

As the Packers often do, they tried Lang at guard throughout the 2009 and 2010 preseasons to make him more versatile.  When Daryn Colledge left following the 2010 Super Bowl season, Lang was inserted as the starting left guard and he has never looked back as a pillar on the line.  When the team moved Josh Sitton to the left side of the line, Lang moved to right guard where he has been above average on an offensive line regarded as one of the better units in the league.  Lang will become an unrestricted free agent next month when the new league years begins and is coming off of hip surgery.  He's only 29 years old and while he's had some injuries that have cost him some time (hip, shoulder, concussion), it's Lang's attitude and demeanor that adds to his value.  So should the Packers bring him back?

Raves

I'm changing it up and starting with Raves instead of Rants this week and you'll see why.  Perhaps Lang's value is most realized and appreciated in Green Bay, where Lang has spent all eight of his seasons in the NFL.  Or, perhaps we'll see just how many other teams are interested in a Pro Bowl guard (Lang skipped the Pro Bowl this season and was replaced by. . Sitton) who has yet to turn 30.  With the aforementioned injuries, Lang definitely has some tread on the tires and he's at the point where Packers general manager Ted Thompson may consider parting ways with him too soon rather than too late.  But in his postseason comments, it seems that Lang wants to stay in Green Bay and is definitely committed to returning from his injury 100%.  

One of my gripes with the Packers in recent years has been a lack of veteran presence.  Notice I didn't use the term "leadership" because that can be a subjective term and I don't want this to become a debate over what a leader is.  Yes, the Packers have veterans on their team: Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Clay Matthews, Mike Daniels, Julius Peppers, Morgan Burnett, Bryan Bulaga, Randall Cobb, Mason Crosby, David Bakhtiari and Lang.  Peppers has likely played his last down in Green Bay and seems primed to be replaced by (hopefully) Nick Perry.  The Packers could opt to try and run with Jason Spriggs at right guard instead of bringing Lang back.  Spriggs is another tackle who was drafted high and used at guard when the need presented itself this past season.  He was OK and Thompson may be feeling lucky after seeing how well Lane Taylor stepped up when Sitton was let go.  But with some additional cap space and a low likelihood that Thompson is going on a spending spree outside of the guys he knows, this seems like a good time to re-sign Lang.

A guy who is still seen as one of the league's best and, barring more health issues, seems to have another four to five seasons in him would seem like the best bet for the Packers.  Right now, there is no clear replacement for Lang on the roster.  The Packers could certainly draft that guy this spring, but the draft is anything but a given, in terms of getting the guy they need.  Thompson has had good luck on the offensive line, grabbing Sitton, Lang, Bakhtiari, J.C. Tretter and Corey Linsley in the middle rounds.  He's also had some misses: Derek Sherrod and Marshall Newhouse.  The draft is a gamble and the Packers know what they have in Lang.  If I had to guess what Thompson's biggest fear in life is, I'd have to go with assuming too much risk.  In Lang, that would seem to be minimized.

It won't likely happen early in the process, but Thompson needs to reach out to Lang sooner than later and get him locked up and maintain the continuity on an offensive line that served Rodgers very well during the latter part of the 2016 season.

Rants

There aren't many, if you ask me.  The injury history is a concern and it almost makes Lang an "old" 29 years old.  He's had multiple surgeries and is likely to miss a few games this season, based on his history.  There's no stat to measure toughness, but Lang has it.  He's tried to play through bumps and bruises.  Opted to stay in games or return in games when his team needed him.  When he couldn't, he was gutted.  He wants to be out there and he wants to wear the green and gold.  That's great.  But with his experience and tenure, Lang is going to cost the Packers some dollars.

The Packers like to set a price for a player and let the decision making process play out.  In a league that favors the teams and robs players of years on their contracts, will Lang look for the most lucrative deal for himself?  He'll likely get one better than what the Packers will offer and we'll see just how committed he is to staying in Green Bay.  I argued that the Packers need more experience on their roster but this is becoming a young man's league more and more by the year.  Players are retiring sooner and teams are opting to go with younger bodies over the more experienced and older options.  Speed has become a necessity and it's a simple fact that those physical skills eventually decline.  Lang is still agile and can get out on a screen play, but how much longer can he remain dominant and as effective as he has been recently?  Will this recent surgery have an effect?

All of that aside, I still look to Lang's demeanor and being on the right side of 30, even if it is just for part of this year.  The questions about his health and declining play are just that, questions that are not clearly answered.  Lang is one of those players who would most likely become a huge mistake to let walk away.  With no obvious replacement and as much as the Packers offense relies on their pass protection, Lang is just too valuable.  There's just too much risk of a huge hole in that protection without a solid interior to the line.

Ted, T.J. Lang belongs back in Green Bay.  Make it happen! 

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Jason is a freelance writer on staff since 2012 and also co-hosts Cheesehead TV Live, Pulse of the Pack and Pack A Day podcasts.  You can follow him on Twitter here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (20) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

gr7070's picture

I think they're more likely to resign Tretter than Lang. I'd also prefer that, fwiw.

Age for one

Tretter has shown he can handle LT and is very good at center. I don't doubt that he could take over at guard if needed.

I suspect they'll look to move Murphy to guard, too. They'll continue to develop Spriggs at tackle,but would certainly play him at guard if he's one of the best 5.

Spriggs and Murphy give them lots of options for next year and regarding what to do with Lang or Tretter, if anything.

RobinsonDavis's picture

Add to this, the need by a number of teams to imrpove their o-lines in a bleak draft year for o-linemen, and supposedly, few top-end guards available in free-agency, and you have a recipe where demand outstrips supply. I will be surprised if we can sign both of these gentlemen, but would like them back.

Bert's picture

I know there is a feeling that getting younger is better. But, if we are shooting for a championship in 2017 let's keep some proven vets around who know how to win. Lang is a guy who gives it 100% all the time. Kind of guy you want if you are serious about winning now.

RodFlash's picture

Tretter may be younger but he's missed almost 2 FULL seasons out of the last 3 due to injury. He's also regarded as the #1 FA @ Center and someone will want him. Lang needs to be resigned. Tretter can walk. End of story.

Lphill's picture

If the price is right bring him back.

Nick Perry's picture

I'd like to see Lang back. He's definitely the "Tough Guy" of the O-Line and he happens to be a damn good Guard. The Packers were fortunate last year with Taylor being as good as he was, do they really want to replace ANOTHER All-Pro Guard the very next season again? The run blocking took a hit when Sitton left, it would take another if Lang left too.

Thompson moved up to take Spriggs when there were two of the better Guards in the draft still on the board (Nick Martin & Cody Whitehair). I know Thompson likes to take tackles but I don't believe that's where they ultimately want Spriggs.

If Lang does end up signing somewhere else might the Packers move Bulaga inside at RG and put Spriggs at RT? Personally I think Spriggs would make an excellent RT.

It's a question folks...That's all.

MarkinMadison's picture

I floated that possibility about nine months ago. I was thinking that Bulaga was likely to lose the mobility to play RT, and certainly his injury history has been a problem. Then he went out and put together probably the best season of his career. It doesn't mean that a Spriggs/Bulaga shuffle couldn't happen though. I think it depends on who is more ready to go - Patrick at RG or Spriggs at RT.

Honestly, this won't be a popular opinion, but I think that the Packers are ready to move forward without Tretter or Lang. My only hesitation is that Linsley looked a bit unreliable at times in the pistol and gun at snapping the ball. I'd like to see Tretter stick around, but I think someone else pays him.

Nick Perry's picture

Maybe it was you I got the idea from because I remember reading it somewhere on some site. I hear you about Lindsey. It seemed as the season wore on, Rodgers was catching the ball lower and lower each game. The big concern obviously would be depth if they both walk. On the flip sign it would save the Packers some money to be able to actually do something in FA.

I admit, I don't know a thing about Patrick. Murphy it seems would be a good Guard. I know PFF thought the Packers got a steal when they drafted him in the 6th. DPF made some interesting points yesterday, especially about Spriggs. He doesn't seem to have the "Anchor" to play Guard but he's made to play Tackle. Talk about excellent feet. A starting O-Line of Bakhtieri, Taylor, Lindsey, Murphy, and Bulaga/Spriggs or Bulaga inside would be a pretty damn good line I'd imagine.

Cutting Shields and Starks has the Packers at $43.6 Million or so in Cap Space. They need to sign Perry but Ted has a plan. I'm waiting to hear something about Matthews, I just can't see Thompson paying $15.2 Million for a few sacks and 22 tackles. I know he was injured and toughed it out but he wasn't exactly productive before the shoulder injury either. MAN would it be cool to be active in Free Agency!

stockholder's picture

I can. Mathews can still play. Just got to get him injury free. I'm still more interested in how the defense is going to shape out. See where both the defensive and offensive HCs of the Atlanta Falcons are now gone. Somebody wants to win.

MarkinMadison's picture

Maybe, nothing new under sun or moon. Part of the discussion centered around Bulaga's salary. Some asked if his number fit at guard. For 2016 he was at $5.5M, which matched Lang. His cap number bumps $2-3M per year for the next few years, but certainly if you've got Spriggs on the outside on a rookie contract you can afford to pay Bulaga to play the inside for a few years.

I don't really know enough to compare Patrick v. Murphy at this point. If 1265 is high on Patrick though it is just too much like they were high on Taylor last off-season, even though none of us were convinced.

dobber's picture

I'll say this: if the Packers thought Patrick was THAT good--good enough to put him on the field and let Lang walk--why would he have spent the season on the PS where he could get snagged by anyone?

Nick Perry's picture

That's a good point and I had thought of that. Bulaga's cap hit is $7.8 in 2017 and $8.3 in 2018 & 19 and of course he's a FA when he turns 30. That's a lot of money for a Guard.

RobinsonDavis's picture

2 addtional points:

* The Vikings have released two guards (Fusco & Harris) this past week freeing-up cap space. Why do I feel like Tretter or Lang are going to end-up in Minnesota?

* The case for signing Tretter goes beyond replacing or backing up Lang. He is probably the most versatile of the O-lineman when he is healthy, and importantly, Linsley and Taylor are free-agents in 2018. At least one positional ranking forum, listed Tretter considerably higher than Linsley this past year at the Center position. Thus, if it was to take place, the re-signing of Tretter maybe more than just insurance for Lang.

wimiller's picture

spriggs was nothing short of a disaster everytime they sent him in this past year. i would resign Lang if the price is right. but I distrust my going soft, when it comes to players who have been damn good but are probably on the downside of their peak. I probably would have let Kuhn go as they did, but it would have killed me to do so. the guy i might let go, or force to renegotiate to about half his present cap hit, is CMIII, who is clearly well on the decline. His body just cannot take the way he plays much more.

Handsback's picture

If it came down to Lang and Tretter as to having to keep one, I would go Lang. I would like to keep both, but as good as Tretter is....he can't stay healthy. Now remember this is Green Bay and it's the center of the football injury universe so if Tretter did leave, he stands a chance of playing another 10 years w/o a sractch anywhere else.

Lang will need some surgery and if it's not that bad, I think the Packers will resign him.

Dzehren's picture

Thompson doesn't generally extend players 3 times- especially if your 29. love Lang but he is most likely finished in GB (that injury in the 4th qtr won't help) Unless Tretter gets starting money at guard- he is gone too $5M for 3 years- 9M guaranteed. TT can find a guard in Mid rounds or move Bulaga to guard & Spriggs at tackle if Spriggs progresses as he should.

cpheph1's picture

I'm also a big fan of TJ Lang; he's my 1a resign priority & Nick Perry 1b. The Packers have the cap to sign them both to healthy deals. I think Ted will sign them.

The next tier of pending Packers FA includes Peppers or Datone Jones; Tretter isn't needed unless Lang leaves. Also have to include Cook here...and make the #1 from this tier. J. Elliott will be tendered RFA.

Next tier is Lacy! Hyde too.

UFA CB will have to be pursued but maybe the quality won't be as good as last season. Will need to draft a

stockholder's picture

Good bye Lang. Your best days are behind you. TT let Sitton go. He should let you go too. The only way Lang comes back, is if they draft McCaffery. And he surely won't sign him if Lacy gets signed first. So dream on people. TT is not going to put money in the offense, when A-Rod eats up their share. I'm looking at Spriggs and murphy as your new starters.

4thand1's picture

Bring back Lang................PERIOD! If we get thin on the oline we're screwed. If you watch the teams that really struggle, t's because of weak and inexperienced olines.

Dzehren's picture

Sitton Signed a three-year, $21.75 million contract. The deal includes $10 million guaranteed. I can see Lang getting something similar. We can plug and play a guard- see lane Taylor. Will need to draft for depth 2 mid round picks (tackles) typical TT MO.

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