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Solutions for the Right Side of the Packers Offensive Line

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Solutions for the Right Side of the Packers Offensive Line

In 2018, the Packers offensive line faced many challenges.  During their opening contest against the Bears, Brian Bulaga, who was returning from an ACL tear that he suffered at the end of the 2017 season, was manhandled by Khalil Mack.  Mack's dominance over Bulaga lead to what many initially considered to be a season-ending knee injury to Aaron Rodgers.  Although this opening week injury did not end up ending Rodgers season, he ended up being limited for the majority of the season.  

The Packers offensive line desperately needed to come together and provide Aaron Rodgers with extra time to deliver the ball to his receivers so that the Packers offense wouldn't skip a beat.  From that point forward, Rodgers opening night heroics became few and far between, and the Packers offense struggled for much of the season.    

The final aspect of the conundrum of the offensive line last season was the lack of trust that Rodgers had in his young receivers.  During many games, we would see Aaron holding onto the ball for what seemed like an eternity only to throw the ball away or take a sack in a key third down situation.  

In that respect, the Packers offensive line woes could be aided by adding one or two proven free agent receivers with a track record of NFL success.  Adding a more experienced receiver(s) will allow Rodgers to have more confidence that routes will be executed in a more precise fashion so that the ball can be released more quickly and naturally so that his receivers can catch the ball in stride.    

However, just adding a receiver(s) will not fully solve the problem of protecting Aaron Rodgers.  In order to protect Aaron Rodgers and make sure that the Packers are not among the leaders in 3rd down sacks during the 2019 season, they must look to upgrade the right side of the offensive line.  

By my estimation, the Packers will have a few directions that they could choose to take in order to significantly upgrade the right side of their offensive line.

Here are some different directions that Mark Murphy, Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur could take when reconstructing the Packers offensive line for the 2019 season:

  • Sign a right guard like Roger Saffold and extend Brian Bulaga on a team friendly 2-3 year deal. 
  • Draft both a tackle and a guard in the first 3 rounds of the 2019 NFL Draft and let Brian Bulaga play out the final year of his contract.
  • Trade up in the first round or draft a premium left tackle (to play right tackle) with the 12th pick, and move Brian Bulaga inside to the right guard position.
  • Draft a right tackle in the second or third round and move them to one of the guard positions and extend Bulaga to a team friendly contract for 2-3 years.
  • Cut Brian Bulaga and draft a premium tackle; draft or sign a premium guard to complete the reconstruction of the right side of the offensive line.

Sound Off:

Let me know which direction that the Packers should go when constructing their offensive line for the 2019 season.  As always, I look forward to hearing your opinions.  

 

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David Michalski is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @kilbas27dave 

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (44) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

puffybabyman's picture

Draft a couple tackles and let them compete at both guard and tackle spots. Bulaga is fine; just need some insurance.

Lare's picture

First of all, Mark Murphy has nothing to do with player evaluation, talent acquisition or draft selection. He has stated on multiple occasions he will not undermine Gutekunst’s authority in those areas.

Next, I don’t care how they do it but improving the OL and the offense overall has to be the #1 priority this offseason. They’ve invested tons of money in their QB, hired a new offensive-minded HC, hired an offensive line specialist as Gutekunst’s second in command and brought in an entirely new offensive coaching staff.

As we saw last season, failure to improve the offense will lead to another losing record, and some upper management personnel may be in danger of losing their jobs.

Turophile's picture

Agree with Lare that Murphy is not in the decision-makers chair. That will belong to Gutekunst, who will liaise with his own personnel guys and scouts, with LaFleur, and directly or indirectly (via LaFleur) with the coordinators as well, maybe even the position coaches. I'm sure Murphy is kept in the loop, but no more.

As for the right side of the line, I'm expecting an early pick of an OT who could play guard in 2019, as Bulaga's contract runs it's last year. Then that OT moves to RT in 2020 with Bulaga not having his contract renewed.

A guard is still needed in this scenario (for 2020). That could be Nico Siragusa, or it could be another draft pick in the 4th/5th rounds.

Players (OTs) of interest include Dillard, Taylor, Ford, Cajuste, Risner, Little. I'd be looking to get the best of them still on the board at #30. The odd one of those listed may still be there at #44, but that is a dangerous roll of the dice, given how coveted a good OT is.

stockholder's picture

If they take Williams it solves those problems. (5 stars!) Gute is in denial about the Off line. He thinks their ok. We don't know who is coming in FA. But if Gute is going to build a Dream Team. He shouldn't avoid the OL. So lets say he's right. Williams is off their board. The #30 and #44 should not be Ford ,Risner or Little etc.. These guys are nothing but work and have 3 stars. The value of the draft is the WIs. OL ! And those are the players he must take in the 3rd and forth rd. Dillard - Bad Back, Ford over Rated, Cajuste LT , Little terrible feet, Risner, versatile, solid. But still not worth a rd 1 grade. I'd leave your picks on the board.

stockholder's picture

Sign the veteran. But we all know you don't get that high ceiling and Reward. Especially after TT drafted so many good OL men. To bad he missed on Spriggs. And springs should have taught a lesson. Hyped tackles aren't always worth the Risk. I believe any OL with issues are a Risk. Pass on everybody but Williams in the first round! Mack is going to eat up everybody. The vet that had the most success against him is the man to sign! From a Rookie point. I also like Risner, Lindstrom, and Scharping. And I like those kids from WI , better then Texas late.

Coldworld's picture

Sign a veteran, keep Baluga and draft a tackle in rounds 2 to 4 to develop and consider also drafting a true guard or two (assuming Madison has not firmly recommitted) on day 3. We have the picks to spare late.

The tricky one is back up tackle. That’s where you spend your draft capital on a project because good FA tackles are mythical in terms of rareness or cost. Let those already on the roster fight to show they have improved. A little more competition may help sort out if any are worth keeping. Spriggs among them, but Spriggs is not built for playing guard.

The TKstinator's picture

Baluga.
Damn auto correct!

TheVOR's picture

We'll have to agree to disagree, Bulaga is NOT FINE, he'd be serviceable as a guard, but he was getting beaten like a rented mule at RT, he was terrible, as was the bench depth. We need a mean nasty SOB tackle, and I'd have zero issues taking a can't miss Tackle at 10. Its that big of a deal!

Coldworld's picture

Don’t agree. His problem is health. When he played he graded well.

TheVOR's picture

So question to you, when has a player who can't stay available at RT a good thing? Dude was terrible! Unlike most of the faithful, I view things like this differently, I want a young player that plays nasty, at a high level, and is available, so as not to leave us to this alarmingly bad DEPTH this team has. Why in the world would you believe an aging BUlaga is destined for better heath and availability? I'm waiting? What... unbridled "optimism"? The dude is done as a regular reliable starter in the NFL, more less at RT.. PLEASE DRAFT a new RT NOW!!!

stockholder's picture

I have a list for @75 and later :G= Bradbury C, Dieter WI, Alex Bars ND, Edoga usc ,B Benzschawel. OTs. Scharping, Edwards WI., Cajuste WV, McGary,

Minniman's picture

What a good list stockholder.

That UW O-line had a good year on a mediocre team. Dieter is a real JC Tretter type that could play many line positions.

dobber's picture

IMO, that UW OL underperformed based on expectations in 2018. The offense, in general, was handcuffed by it's lack of WR talent and QB situation. I agree: Dieter is the best of that bunch, and I think he's better than Tretter.

The TKstinator's picture

“unlike most of the faithful”

Old School's picture

This is Bulaga's last year on his deal. He had good availability last year and when he's available he's a pretty good tackle. He was not being beaten like a rented mule, he was not terrible, and I suspect the same will hold true this year. It's all about his availability.

We need a starter at RG. Right now, I guess you'd view McCray as the putative starter. Fortunately, RG is the least important position on the offense, and I think it was Ron Wolf who said that you could get them anywhere.

Guys like Bakhtiari and Lynsley and Sitton and Lang should have taught us we don't need to spend high picks to find good offensive linemen.

Our primary backup at both tackles is Spriggs, I guess, and unless he improves a lot over the last three years......I'm not inspired by him.

I agree with the people who would try to fill RG with a vet, but I don't think we need to throw huge dollars at some guy who'll be good enough to win with.

We need a tackle who can back up either spot AND take over for Bulaga next year. I think we could get an OT in the 2nd half of the 2nd round that would work for us.

There was 0 strengthening of the offensive line in Gutekunst's first year. We signed Bell, that's it. You've got to be strengthening that line every single year, somehow.

AgrippaLII's picture

I think getting a starting caliber guard through free agency is more likely than finding a tackle...at least it shouldn't break the bank. Then get the best rated tackle you can early in the draft. He will most likely play behind Bulaga for most of the season barring another injury of course. To me this would seem to be the most cost effective way to address the OLine and still leave lots of cap space for other free agent signings.
.

Lare's picture

This from Gutekunst's interview today:

“A lot of the outside zone stuff requires those guys to be a little bit more athletic,” Gutekunst said. “Get off the spot a little bit more. But at the end of the day, good football players, especially the really good ones, can do it all. We have a really good quarterback we have to protect. That’s obviously priority No. 1.”

stockholder's picture

Most of draft networks OL,Tes,Edge, players are 3 stars. Williams is the only 5 star. Williams sets their draft and should be the first Pick. Not popular but it is what it is.

dobber's picture

If I'm Lane Taylor, these kinds of comments don't make me feel good about my job security.

Old School's picture

Taylor is a cap hit of 5.5 this year and 6 next year. He's 29. Yes, we could cut him today it would result in a net cap savings but we'd have a hole in our offensive line we need to fill, and we already have plenty of holes without creating another one.

I think as long as he stays healthy and plays well then he's safe until his contract expires.

ILPackerBacker's picture

To many holes to plug. Bringing Bulaga back and holding our noses and crossing our fingers is the only way forward.

Ron Wolf got really 'lucky' with two OL in the same draft. Ted tried it and it did not work. He reputation for OL drafting is highly suspect given the number of picks he made and given our Rodgers inflates their grades.

GUTE will not get two starting level OL from this draft and he should n't try.

We NEED a skill player and pass rusher.

Turophile's picture

@ILPackerBacker. Ted got Lang, Sitton, Bakhtiari, Linsley, Tretter in the 4th - 5th rounds, so his overall batting average for OL is good.

This was a position where a good few years ago holes were not filled very well (shades of Newhouse). Then it changed. and Ted did very well there, as the guys listed above demonstrates. This idea that you cannot get two starting OL in the same draft is pretty meaningless, since the sample size is too small to get any meaningful data.

Absolutely no reason not to try for two starter-level OLs - I'd go for an OT at #30 and a G somewhere in rounds 4/5/6 to compete with Nico Siragusa, who is a mauler.

I do expect either a DL or edge guy at #12, and a free safety at #44 or #75. Something like Edge, OT, FS, TE, RB, OG would be reasonable, with the picks they have in the first 4 rounds. DL, OT, Edge, FS, TE, OG, RB is another way of doing it.

stockholder's picture

Forget Edge - Sign Darious Smith, P
Smith.

Minniman's picture

Looking at the options above I'd sign a RG now. It just opens up so many options to draft and develop a new Right Tackle with the pressure removed from that person to start straight away.

If all goes well, then that person shares snaps with Bulaga late in the season, keeping them both fresh to combat the Khalil Macks of the game.

I personally don't see Bulaga's play as bad as Spriggs and Don Barclay's. Sure he gets injured a lot, but he's not a turnstile, and his player ratings this year could probably have benefited from a RG that he could trust.

ShooterMcGee's picture

Guards and safeties are the 2 cheapest positions to sign in free agency and luckily 2 of our biggest needs. Sign a veteran like the guy Spain from Tennessee for the starting guard position then draft an OT in the middle rounds who hopefully develops. In this way the 1st 3 rounds of the draft can focus on defense with 1 playmaker at TE or WR.

porupack's picture

Totally agree with S-McGee.
Get vet FA Safety and vet FA Guard,

Then....;
Draft a tackle in Rd 2-4 to play behind, and get mentored by Bulaga if he goes down.
Draft S in Rd 2-3

Rd 1 for TE and OLB (or if big value at #30; then consider others at positions of S, OT).

Take a flyer on OT, S and CB in Rd 4-5

RB, TE and ILB 6-7.

Also get Vet FA for RB and OLB to double down.

Now, over to you, Herr Gutekunst to just find the right guys.... I did all I'm qualified for.

Wilment's picture

Funny, this was one of my "Top three" positions to fill in Free agency. Guard play last year was mediocre when at its best, and really poor at its worst, with the right side being worse. The good news, got that kid Siragusa from the Ravens last year off the practice squad, he is rough, but mean and played well in college. There are plenty of guards in free agency. This isn't a great year for oline men that are going to be able to just step in and play.

crayzpackfan's picture

Not saying I buy into this AT ALL, but if we could be crazy for a moment, what would u guys say to the first 4-5 picks going to one TE and the rest OL? Goofy as a mini skirt on a fat girl for sure, but is it? Not trolling, just trying to inspire a hypothetical draft/FA scenario. Cheers.

haseo's picture

No. And I mean this respectively. The defense is that lacking of playmakers

porupack's picture

Yeah. It'd be goofy. We would hope that the evaluation process is better than just needing to scattershot with 3+ picks. 1-2 picks should get talented prospects. And start with bringing in a FA vet OG. Then the coaching staff, training and competition should boil up a solid pair on the right, especially if Bulaga can stay in the mix most of the first half of the year.

crayzpackfan's picture

I guess posting crazy thoughts while drinking isn’t the greatest idea. Lol.

Dzehren's picture

Why cant GB draft an OL in the 1st or 2nd round & have him play guard in 2019 then move him to tackle next year as Bulaga's contract expires & he'll be 30? Then draft another OL in middle round's to play guard next year.

Hawg Hanner's picture

Most of the mock drafts have ignored Offensive Line. I agree one of the top three picsk should be OL.

stockholder's picture

Because they have to many other needs. Wilkerson DE - 1 Year Tops, Williams Safety - 1 year Tops. Ryan FA, Morrison doesn't work, And Burks is to light to play full time. The Ot and Guards are 3 stars by draft Net. Solution: Williams 5 star Should be taken already. @75,114, 118. Forget Risner. Take value here, Scharping, and if you ever watched WI football take their OL. They are much better then OkL.

crayzpackfan's picture

I agree to an extent. Maybe a quality TE can serve as both receiver and blocker?

TheBigCheeze's picture

Bring Sitton back......

rstain99's picture

exactly what I was thinking Miami is cutting him he knows the offense DUH! maybe takes a hometown discount worth a look brings that toughness that this group lacked since he was cut.

Packer Dave's picture

Bulaga did a fine job against Mack in that first game. MM left him on a island and AR took 4+ sec to throw the ball.

Big fan of taking Williams or Taylor early.

Coach JV's picture

I would think we sign a guard like Saffold... we let BB play out his final year as a "prove it" for a small extension next year.

Also, we draft a tackle high and a guard mid round to develop.

bodei1newbie1's picture

i would draft a couple of lower round tackles and guards just in case of injuries during the season

Guam's picture

I would prefer to see us sign a FA right guard and then spend at least two mid round (3rd to 5th) draft choices on O-linemen. Our O-line depth last year was awful as were both starting guards. I will give Taylor a bit of a break as he was playing injured, but even healthy he is an average guard at best.

This won't completely rebuild the O-line as Bulaga is still an injury question, but given our other needs I think this may be the best we can do in one year.

fthisJack's picture

draft Risner and Lindstrom and let Bulaga walk next year...or possibly trade him now if possible, get his salary off the books and get some draft capitol for next year. if that happens pick up a FA guard as insurance. (Saffold).

Grimm's picture

I cant see the Packers drafting a bunch of OL men. Certainly not 4 out of 8 picks. Cole Madison's situation was a blow to building an OL for the future.

I see a decent RG as priority, either by draft or FA. a future RT is definitely in the cards as well.

I keep wonder if Spriggs could be moved to TE. Primarily as a run blocker and maybe the guy can catch 4-5 balls over the season. He would still be an emergency RT if needed.

4zone's picture

Ah, thus the conundrum unfolds. The first and foremost problem here is the Packers can't fix everything. The will have to settle to go short in some area. Either at Safety, Edge Rushers, TE, Slot Receiver or OL. So many problems, so many choices.

Personally, I would go for Hockenson and a top Tier OT in the draft even if we have to give up picks to get them both in Rd. 1. It gives us both a weapon on Offense and maximizes our picks in providing long term protection for AR until he retires.

Next I try to grab whatever safety, edge rusher or slot receiver I can get in the next two rounds. From there, double up with project picks the rest of the way. Maybe a RB in there too.

We most surely need to sign an upgrade at Safety and OLB in FA to boot. MLB. . . ???? Who knows, wherever we can find someone.

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