What Do the Packers Do to Replace Corey Linsley Next Season?

The Green Bay Packers got All Pro play at center in 2020 from veteran Corey Linsley who enjoyed his best season as a pro. But Linsley is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent and the Packers probably won’t be able to afford to keep him and stay under the salary cap.

So, what happens at the center position next season? How can the Packers make sure that they can continue to get strong play from their offensive line while trying to replace the player who was the highest graded center in the league in 2020 according to Pro Football Focus.

There are several options available for the team and here is a look at several of the most likely:

1. Re-Sign Linsley

It would take a lot for the Packers to re-sign Linsley including restructuring several existing contracts and releasing some players already on the roster including some starters. Linsley would also likely have to offer the Packers a home team discount.

The Packers have a track record of not re-signing offensive linemen when they approach their 30th birthday even when those players are still performing at a high level such as T.J. Lang, Josh Sitton and Bryan Bulaga. They did make an exception for left tackle David Bakhtiari, so anything is possible, but re-signing Linsley is unlikely.

Keeping Linsley on the roster would give the Packers the most continuity and talent on their offensive line, but the cost is likely prohibitive.

2. Move Lucas Patrick to Center

Lucas Patrick started 15 games for the Packers at guard last season, but he has also seen time at center replacing Linsley when he was injured in two games in 2019.

Patrick is a tough, smart and feisty lineman who has proven he can be a reliable starter and he can play any of the three positions on the interior of the offensive line.

On paper, he would be a step down from Linsley, but he should be a solid replacement at the center position.

Obviously, the Packers would have to find a new starting guard. There are plenty of options here including Billy Turner, Lane Taylor (if he re-signs), Jon Runyan, Jr., and Simon Stepaniak.

3. Move Elgton Jenkins to Center

When Linsley was injured for three games late in the season, it was Jenkins who filled in at center and the offense didn’t miss a beat. Jenkins is one of the most versatile linemen in the game today and he played tackle, guard and center for the Packers in 2020 and earned Pro Bowl honors for his efforts.

Again, the Packers would have to find a new left guard with the same major candidates listed above being the front runners at the position.

There is a risk of slowing down Jenkins’ development by moving him around along the line, but so far, playing different positions does not seem to be an impediment for Jenkins who performs at a high level wherever he is asked to play.

4. Promote Jake Hanson to Center

The Packers knew Linsley was going to be a free agent at the end of this season so they drafted three interior linemen in the later rounds of the 2020 NFL Draft in anticipation of Linsley’s possible departure. One of them was Jake Hanson of Oregon who Gutekunst selected in the sixth round.

Hanson spent the season on the practice squad and has yet to appear in an NFL game. It would be asking a lot of Hanson to start right away and he probably isn’t ready. Expect him to fight for a position on the active roster and only to start if he has an outstanding training camp.

5. Draft a Center

The Packers have a history of finding quality offensive linemen on the third day of the NFL Draft. They could also use a second day pick on a center if they fall in love with one or more of the available players. Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater has the versatility the Packers look for in offensive linemen and he can play anywhere along the offensive line. But they may need to pick him in the first round and that is an unlikely move.

Georgia’s Trey Hill or Josh Myers of Ohio State would be likely second day options who may make sense as could Alabama alum Landon Dickerson.

Again, even if they draft a center high in the draft, the Packers may need Patrick or Jenkins to start at center in 2021 until the draft picks are ready to assume the starting position.

6. Sign a Free Agent Center

The Packers could also sign a different free agent center either to compete for a starting job or add depth. If Gutekunst wants to obtain a clear cut starter, it will likely cost a lot of money and the new player may still not be as good as Linsley was last year.

Some of the top names available include Alex Mack and Mike Pouncey, both who are over 30 and on the downsides of their career. The only way signing one of these veterans makes sense is if they sign a short-term deal for one or two years at a lower salary than these players have made previously.

Other names on the market include David Andrews who played for the Patriots last year, Ted Karras of Miami, Joe Looney of Dallas and Austin Reiter from Kansas City.

This option is unlikely based on Gutekunst’s track record and the Packers present salary cap situation. But if the Packers find a player that they like at a very reasonable salary, anything is possible.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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Comments (65)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Coldworld's picture

February 13, 2021 at 12:16 pm

I think the plan is Patrick, Jenkins or Hanson. We have Runyon and Stepaniak, who was rated more highly than Runyon by many but fell due to injury, drafted to move into guard slots. Hanson got injured, but was probably not in the plans for this year. He should have picked up a lot of the system though. I would not rule him out.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 13, 2021 at 05:25 pm

If they can get creative, I would retain Lindsley. Not wasting a high pick on a center like Humphrey. We'll see on the damaged goods, maybe they heal, maybe not. Patrick did not Impress as a Center. He was adequate, but has a difficult time reaching the LBs, especially fast LBs. Hanson could be the surprise. He started what four years for the Ducks, but fell in the draft with his injury. Having Rodgers taken out for the season from a leaking inside front just to save a couple bucks is nonsensical.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 09:28 pm

I would love to see Linsley stay, if they can figure out how to do it. Will be interesting to see where they go if he doesn't. Thanks for the comment, jannesbjornson.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 09:07 pm

We shall see. I think Patrick is the most likely with the depth they have at guard. Thanks for the comment, Coldworld.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

February 15, 2021 at 11:06 am

Good post Coldworld!

Let Linsley walk! We need cap space elsewhere and have quite a few young and potentially promising interior OL who can transition to center. As you say any one of Patrick, Jenkins or Hanson, Runyon or Stepaniak. Personally, I'd like to see the Packers draft two OT's, and a IDL high in the 2021 draft. Draft two OL this year and develop them and the OL will be in great shape for a long time.

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Turophile's picture

February 14, 2021 at 06:53 pm

Linsley to Patrick is not a step down, that's an entire damn staircase.

Sure I agree the Packers probably cannot afford Linsley, but let's not pretend Patrick isn't a huge backward move.

Now if Jenkins moved to Center..........that's a whole different ball game.

I do agree a right tackle on day 1 or 2 of the draft should help keep the line strong.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

February 15, 2021 at 11:19 am

T,
I agree with you that someone else playing Center next year would likely be a pretty big step backwards. However, sometimes in order to grow and improve tough decisions like possibly letting Linsley go are necessary. Pick up some good OL in the draft and continue to coach up some of our existing young OL, and our OL has the potential to be even better than this past year. As one of our esteemed posters indicate further down in this post Linsley is starting to get up there in age and has had several back injuries. That is a bad combination going forward if you throw a big contract at Linsley.

The Pack no doubt have a plan on how they are going to improve the Packers overall and try advancing to the Super Bowl. Somehow I have a hard time believing with all they need to do with the Cap this year they will want to keep an aging Center with a bad back for the contract they will need to pay Linsley. Why not pick up a compensatory pick a year from now by letting him go saving Cap space, while developing some of our younger talent? Unless I am wrong I think what you saw the Packers do by drafting Dillon a year before Jones and Williams contracts were up is the chess game Gute plays. Hence, go back and look at some of the OL drafted last year! When I think of all the good OL the Packers have had say in the last 15-years most all of them were drafted in rounds 4-5 & 6. The questionable to bad draft picks seem to be as OT's in the upper rounds.

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dobber's picture

February 13, 2021 at 12:19 pm

I think the Packers already have a plan, but it will look a lot like their plan to revamp the right side of the OL this season: we have three interior OL positions and a bunch of guys, let's throw them out there and see what sticks. Don't sleep on Simon Stepaniak...he had a redshirt year, but got some practice time late and profiles as a TJ Lang type OG.

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jhtobias's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:32 pm

So we have your word when the oline play drops to below average and the offense with it you wont whine and cry like som safe spacer since your so confident in an unproven rookie over an all pro center ?

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dobber's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:44 pm

That is such an astute interpretation of my post that I'm rendered speechless...because laughter doesn't count as words.

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Since'61's picture

February 13, 2021 at 10:50 pm

Cookie for Dobber!!! Thanks, Since ‘61

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LeotisHarris's picture

February 13, 2021 at 06:39 pm

Whoa, look at jht taking a swing (and a miss) at dobber? Looks like those Dale Carnegie courses are finally paying off for you, little buddy.

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croatpackfan's picture

February 15, 2021 at 07:37 am

Oh, I read a lot of comments here that Packers need to draft O lineman or linemen early in the draft. They already drafted 3 if I remember correctly last year!

Lets remind Packer nation some of the Packers history when they drafted OL, today pro-bowlers. They get David Bakhtiari in the 4th round and, due to the injury of Brian Bulaga David started immediately at LT. I remember panic among Packers nation because of that.

Then, they drafted Corey Linsley in the 5th round and he had to start almost immediately (I belive in 2nd or 3rd week) because JC Tretter was unavailable due to the injury. I remember same, if not higher level of panic among Packer nation because of that.

How that come through? Those are 2 best linemen in NFL at their positions. Why do you doubt Packers draft choices from last draft? And, if I remember correctly Runyan played at least 2 Q at LG position and he was better than average.

To many panic, to many worries. I understand some worry, but I believe Packers already has a plan and I'm just curious to see how they will solve this situation. Because we do not know what insiders knows. Maybe there is 3 future pro-bowlers already on the team. 2 guards and 1 center! Maybe the best O line will be LT Jenkins, LG Runyan, center Henson, RG Stepaniak, RT Turner and when we put David and Lane in mix, Packers will have again the best OL in the NFL.

Give some credit to the Gutekunst. He was drafting for today and for future. And I'm sure he will do it again!

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Leatherhead's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:19 pm

I’m pretty sure they have a plan, and they’ve had it for awhile.

If we had to play a game right now, it’d be Turner and Wagner at the tackles, Jenkins at center, and Runyon and Patrick at guards. None of the backups have shown anything at the NFL level. If your priority is keeping Rodgers protected and opening holes for the RBs, this needs to be improved.

We could draft a very good center which would let us move Jenkins around.
We could draft an OT so that we could move Turner around. Once Bakhtiari returns, that could be a pretty decent group.

We could draft a guard, move Patrick to center, and put Jenkins at LG to help Turner. Lewis could help too. Any run to the left behind Lewis, Turner, and Jenkins should have good blocking at the point of attack.

Lots of options, but we should add a stud, not only for Rodgers and Dillon, but for Love as well.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 09:32 pm

Lots of options, Leatherhead because they draft versatile linemen. Jenkins, Turner and Patrick all can play multiple positions and Runyan may be able to in a pinch although we've yet to see him do it at the NFL level. I think they'll add another candidate on Day 3 of the draft who may not help right away. Will be interesting. Thanks as always for commenting, Leatherhead.

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Coldworld's picture

February 13, 2021 at 06:01 pm

I liked Stepaniak coming out, but more informed acquaintances liked him a lot more, which is more exciting. He dropped as he was expected to miss the season and I was surprised when we took him for that reason, but it seems a potentially smart move in retrospect. He could indeed be one to watch.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 09:35 pm

Hope they're right about him. Taking a chance on an injured guy with upside in the late rounds can pay off big time. Fingers crossed, Coldworld.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 09:27 pm

Would love to see Stepaniak do well. The more qualified candidates the better. We'll see if they use a similar strategy to last year, that would make sense. Thanks for the comment, dobber.

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 13, 2021 at 12:34 pm

With how the interchangeable OL was heralded, and still often ranked as top 5, it seems that reality is setting in when a Center with very recent back injuries and age, is now a must resign or simple fear of loss, when the rankings speak to not needing him, if you believe they are the end all, as some do. Yikes!

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 09:37 pm

Do you think he's a must sign, TarynsEyes? The depth the o-line had this year was outstanding. Linsley had a career year. How we replace him if he leaves is important but obviously we won't know if it works till it happens. Thanks for the comment.

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PeteK's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:22 pm

I like our options( no injury prone Taylor) and am excited about the youth for the interior. However, after CB a T needs to be drafted, most mocks have a T going to Pack.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 09:38 pm

I think a tackle will be on the list of priorities in the draft, just not sure how high in the draft they'll address it. Maybe 3rd or 4th round, I think, but a lot could change between now and the draft. Thanks for the comment, PeteK.

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jhtobias's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:29 pm

This is commical how two faced the people who post comments on here are.. Linsley is a top three center and can argue is number and is the communicator superior run and pass blocker and people here act as if runyan , Patrick , or some other unnamed rookie will replace that production well good luck with that. they can go ahead and let him walk that's on managment . In no way shape or form do I want to read the two faced crying and complaining on this site when the Packers oline takes a major dip next year if linsley is gone since you arm chair GM'S say he is so easy to replace ..

You posters need to shut you pie hole's and live with the consequences .. Thier are no safe spaces for stupidity talking to you the posters on this site !!!!

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TarynsEyes's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:39 pm

No more sugar for you.

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dobber's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:42 pm

A little early to start drinking, there, man.

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PeteK's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:48 pm

I guess you missed the games in which the aforementioned linemen played well . You forgot the most important , Jenkins. Go buy yourself a box of chocolates tomorrow.

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TheBigCheeze's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:09 pm

YOU shut yer pie hole....Lindsley HAS to be replaceable....salary cap dictates it....if goofynutz wasn't such a moron...we'd have Jefferson or Queen right now, and maybe a Super Bowl Championship....

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PeteK's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:16 pm

Do you mean walnuts because they do look a bit different as nuts go.

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NickPerry's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:16 pm

Whoa there young man...Have a seat, take a deep breath, and just relax a tad. I've made 5293 comments on this site and am sure I've posted something that resembles stupidity, but I feel that Lindsey, in a season where the cap is going DOWN, is a luxury that Packers really can't afford.

The Packers have played WITHOUT Lindsey this past season and seasons before. While I agree the Packers O-Line and offense would be better if Lindsey was resigned, I'd also say with quite a bit of confidence, the Packers could take that money and sign a CB, or D-Lineman and be a better TEAM. OR use that money on an upcoming player like Alexander or Adams, whose importance to the team, IMO, is much higher.

I've been wrong before and was happy to admit. If I'm wrong on Lindsey I'll be the first to pull my own covers. But I AM curious about one thing. IF Lindsey isn't resigned and the Packers O-Line balls out in 2021, will YOU come on here and admit YOU were wrong?

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PeteK's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:25 pm

You're nicer than me, I'll pull my own pants down and moon--em. hahaha

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jhtobias's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:47 pm

Yes I will .. I hope im wrong just like with my marriage lol .. Thanks for the pep talk

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Coldworld's picture

February 13, 2021 at 06:04 pm

We have a cap problem. You it seems have two kinds of cap issue.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 09:41 pm

It may be difficult to replace Linsley and losing him is a concern. That's why I wrote the article. Keeping him may be cost prohibitive though. It's a tough decision for Gute and there are no easy answers.

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Lphill's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:30 pm

This fan base cry’s more about the salary cap than any other team , the Rams made that deal with the Lions already being over the cap and having no first round pick this season, but they will find a way , the constant whining about the salary cap is pathetic here , maybe we overpaid a left tackle and 2 pass rushers , but everyone wants to blame it on Rodgers contract , JJ Watt could be had but no doubt he will wind up on Tampa and help the Bucs spank the Packers again next season.

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PeteK's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:55 pm

Concern is not whining. Rams unloaded a cap heavy QB for another. I think Tobias and you should exchange boxes of chocolates so that you won't be so angry and negative. LOL Come on , loosen up.

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Leatherhead's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:21 pm

Spank? We were first and goal at the 8.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 13, 2021 at 06:18 pm

That's about right.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 09:43 pm

The cap situation is a league wide issue this year. I know Russ Ball and company can make moves to free up some space and they will. Bakhtiari already freed up $8.3 million today by changing some of his bonus money around. We'll see about Watt and Linsley and Jones, but we can't sign them all. Some tough choices ahead. Thanks as always for commenting, Lphill.

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PatrickGB's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:54 pm

Another factor is what will be the identity of this year’s offense. If the team commits to the hybrid type players that Matt loves then the blocking scheme may require a different type of lineman. The MM era is gone and pass blocking linemen may not be as much of a priority. We already have good line coaching so I expect that they will weigh in on the type of linemen that they prefer. The front office will try and find a way to support that ideal at the price they can afford. I think that Jenkins is the best fit at his natural position just like Lindsay was at his. Then all they need is to plug in are guards and we already have plenty of them.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 10:22 pm

I hope so, PatrickGB. We'll see what they decide to do. I think Jenkins is best suited for guard, but not sure if that's where he'll stay. The play of the O-line was a big key to the success of the offense and they'll need to keep it working well next season. Thanks as always for the comment.

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Lare's picture

February 13, 2021 at 01:56 pm

I don't think Center is the problem (options include, Jenkins, Patrick or Hanson), to me the question is at LT if they release Wagner and Bakhtiari isn't ready to play early in the year.

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PatrickGB's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:01 pm

I agree. I liked Valdeer (spelling?) as a short term plug in at tackle. He did ok with us and Indy and would require less changes on the line. He is a true tackle. Yet I have no idea if the coaches feel the same way. There certainly will be a step back from last years line.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 13, 2021 at 06:53 pm

Get the players and make the O line better. Move it along, Win The Big Game.

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PeteK's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:08 pm

Runyon was a solid T in college.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 10:24 pm

I don't think they'll release Wagner although they may try to get him to reduce his cap hit. If Bakhtiari isn't ready, it makes it much tougher to let Wagner go. Options at LT if he's not ready would include Turner or Jenkins at the top of the list. Thanks for the comment, Lare.

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splitpea1's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:02 pm

Only two things to say : 1) The Packers won all their games with Linsley out and a reshuffled line, including two games against teams with pretty good defenses (Bears, Panthers). 2) I really hope Gute isn't or already hasn't fallen in love with anyone in the draft; we have plenty of picks for both needs and BPAs, and I would hate to see any more trading up unless it involves the lower round picks.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 13, 2021 at 06:54 pm

That may be , but Bhaktiari was the starting LT

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 10:27 pm

Gute likes to make draft day trades so we may see one anyway, but we do have enough picks to fill our needs and BPAs. Thanks as always for commenting, splitpea1.

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PatrickGB's picture

February 13, 2021 at 10:45 pm

I wonder if Gute would consider trading a draft pick for a player or vice versa?

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Dragon5's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:05 pm

Bahk, Turner, Linsley all GOATs and we're now in their enemy year--the OX, as of yesterday. Bahk sits the year out, Linsley walks, Turner gets cut to redeploy cap money elsewhere, namely JJ WATT and CB Cameron Sutton. Odds of underperforming in your enemy year are about 85%. It would be fitting that Gute, an OX, prematurely signs Bahk, a GOAT ahead of his enemy year only to get hurt and then keeps GOAT Turner in his enemy year to protect Rodgers blindside where Rodgers gets hurt because of Turner's miscues. DCs now have the tape and will exploit his weaknesses. Runyan Jr started 2 years at LT for Michigan...Packer brass broke him in at guard last year...if he can cut it, he can be our short-term LT until Bahk returns in 2022...management would be four-letter-word stupid to rush Bahk back in his enemy year. Bring back Mercedes Lewis to aid the revamped OL and hopefully Deguara is 90% back and Tonyan's game grows further with another offseason under Kittle's tutelage.

LT Runyan Jr
LG Jenkins
C Hanson, or UFAs Alex Mack or Ted Karras for 1/3 of Linsley's cost
RG Patrick
RT Wagner

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PeteK's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:11 pm

Thanks, now I have to go change my undies.

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Lare's picture

February 13, 2021 at 03:38 pm

I stare at the skies at night, looks just like last night.

People do what they do, regardless.

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PeteK's picture

February 13, 2021 at 05:17 pm

Thanks, that was a very soothing comment.

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jannes bjornson's picture

February 13, 2021 at 06:56 pm

The metal OX says put it on the floorboards. Win that Lombardi. Maybe you should go back to the Greek Zodiac. If you start that group, Rodgers would retire and never look back.

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stockholder's picture

February 13, 2021 at 02:43 pm

Option 3 please. Now let me tell you why. 1. TT replaced Guards easily. 2. Bahk signed for big bucks and is your LT. So what development are you seeing? 3. Replacing Linsley; means he'll earn more $$, and we get an All-pro playing center again. 4. Bahk is the key to helping the LG play better. The new LG will be sandwiched between two All-pros. AGAIN!!

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PeteK's picture

February 13, 2021 at 05:15 pm

AHHH, the positive voice of reason.

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BAMABADGER's picture

February 13, 2021 at 08:20 pm

Jenkins to center, he'll be All-Pro. Runyan to LG. Worry about RT and LT.

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GilMartin's picture

February 13, 2021 at 10:29 pm

Well Bakhtiari is LT once he's healthy again. Turner would be RT most likely or Wagner. We'll see. Thanks for the comment, BAMABADGER.

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BAMABADGER's picture

February 14, 2021 at 09:28 am

Will Bak be 100% healthy for next season? Pack better prepare him not being ready.

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Packers0808's picture

February 14, 2021 at 04:51 pm

lindsley loves being in GB! He will be back I would be willing to bet! [a little}

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stockholder's picture

February 14, 2021 at 06:12 pm

I'd rather have him back and cut Wagner. Why was Veldheer signed? IMO. Gute didn't trust Wagner. And with Good Reason.

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PhantomII's picture

February 14, 2021 at 07:53 pm

Salary cap says Linsley is gone. Because of poor OT drafting Baks enormous salary hangs around the neck of our cap. With Bak being signed and now hurt it makes things much worse. Both L/R tackle positions performed very poorly against the Bucs. I was very surprised ML did not move Jenkins to OT after we were allowing free runs from both sides at Rodgers. I like Jenkins in any OL position, he is just that good. I think he can fix our long term RT position for years to come or Center easily. It's more about where all the others fit the best for the price. Turner did okay in most all games but the last. Wagner the same for the most part. Jenkins is a big dude and not easily moved. He does well at run blocking or pass blocking. Patrick/ Hanson or Jenkins can play center as well. It's a good problem to have.

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Ferrari-Driver's picture

February 15, 2021 at 12:30 am

Let's rule out paying for a free agent center in their 30's. Jeff Saturday remains fresh in our memories and it wasn't pretty.

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Slim11's picture

February 15, 2021 at 07:02 am

Jenkins can play C/G/T and be effective at all three. My preference is play him at LG where he can be dominant.

Lucas Patrick has played at center and been very effective. Going back to 2019, I remember him relieving Linsley following a back injury during a game. I didn't see the offense miss a beat. I had to check the jersey number because I thought Linsley was still playing.

Shuffling multiple players along the offensive line seems to work with this group of players but should be kept to a minimum.

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Malland56's picture

February 16, 2021 at 04:48 pm

SIGN HIM!!! We went thru this before by letting go of 2 all pro OL. Brett ended up running for his life and the running game went down hill.

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