If you had a Ferrari, would you store it in a secure, dry garage? Or, would you park it under a lean-to in an area known for car theft? Seems to be a no-brainer, yes? Anything of great value is protected, if the owner is smart. See where this is going? The Packers have a Ferrari at QB, and they need to keep it in mint condition. What’s the key to protecting a gridiron Ferrari? As the Ferrari himself said after the Atlanta game, “The offensive line…keeping those guys together was a big part of our success.” Welcome to the case for keeping T.J. Lang.
We all know the NFL is a business. Ted Thompson certainly has shown he knows that. He has made some cutthroat decisions to drop players that have been invaluable to the team’s success. Some choices have been timely; some have not been so savvy. Letting Greg Jennings walk was perfect timing. A.J. Hawk was let go at the right time. Waiving Josh Sitton seemed inexplicable at the time, but turned out to be an effective decision for the long term. Other cuts have been regrettable. Cutting Charles Woodson stung, especially since the safety play was atrocious for the next two years, and he produced in Oakland afterwards.
In 2015, the Packers were deep at defensive back, even after letting Tramon Williams leave. They had a Pro Bowl caliber veteran in Sam Shields, two promising rookies in Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall, Casey Hayward playing solid, and even Ladarius Gunter contributing as an undrafted FA. Micah Hyde filled in wherever needed. He’s another free agent who makes a great case to be re-signed.
After the season, letting Hayward walk seemed like a low risk. Fast forward one year later: Shields’s head trauma may have ended his career; Randall and Rollins regressed badly; Gunter battled like hell but was burned against the superstar wide receivers. Taking the depth at defensive back for granted was backbreaking for the 2016 squad.
The offensive line is in a similar spot as the secondary was a year ago. Lane Taylor somehow made Josh Sitton an afterthought. Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy add young talent and depth. Of course the Packers could let Lang walk. Perhaps Spriggs or Murphy could be plugged into his spot and maul people. Or, maybe Murphy’s Law (not Kyle Murphy’s law) could kick in for the offensive line in 2017 like it did for the secondary in 2016. Why take the chance though, especially when it involves a Ferrari? When you already have premium gas, you don’t throw it out for regular unleaded.
T.J. Lang is the consummate Packer and a classic football player, period. He would’ve fit right in with the line who perfected Lombardi’s Power Sweep. A laundry list of injuries has never stopped him from performing at an elite level. He played on a broken foot for a good part of 2016. His loyalty to his Ferrari QB and his brethren in the trenches is unquestioned. Why would the Packers let someone like this go? Offensive linemen have played at high levels well into to their 30s in all eras of the NFL. Lang is 29. His tank is far from empty.
Perhaps no brotherhood in the NFL is as deep as that of the offensive line, especially a great offensive line. Lang’s reaction to his injury in the NFC Champsionship said it all. He realized he may have played his last snap with his brothers. Ted Thompson would be best to keep a great thing going by keeping Lang. Plus, the depth is quality and cheap. Lang has stated quite clearly that he wants nothing more than to stay in Green Bay. He is more likely than any other free agent to re-sign for a hometown discount. This man needs to stay. It’s not only a great football decision; it’s a great business decision. Ted, do the right thing on both accounts.
________________John Piotrowski is a UW-Eau Claire alum, spending most of his life in western WI. He makes the trek east to Lambeau whenever possible. Follow him on twitter at @piosGBP.