Matt LaFleur’s coaching staff is fully operational, and after Monday’s presser one thing is clear: the Packer’s have found the Fountain of Youth. While I don’t see them embracing Fortnite dances or TikTok memes, LaFleur’s staff is young, energetic, and full of promise. With a hefty amount of draft picks and multiple contracts coming up in 2019, it stands to reason that the team is going to see a splash of youth as well.
The Packers have arduous decisions to make regarding some of their longest tenured and beloved players. Whether because of cap space, declining performance, or a desire to get younger, Green Bay could move on from Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, and Mason Crosby this season. Despite this, if there is one ‘older’ player the Green Bay Packers should absolutely stay the course with it is right tackle Bryan Bulaga.
While there are concerns regarding his injury history, age, and cap space, Bryan Bulaga should remain on the Packers for two key reasons: there is no obvious successor available and Bulaga is a really good right tackle.
Before jumping into those reasons, one needs to address the arguments in favor of cutting Bulaga. Since resigning with the team in 2015, Bulaga has only played in all 16 regular season games once (2016). He suffered a torn ACL in 2017 and played through knees injuries in 2018 (missing two games). The former Hawkeye turns 30 this year, and Father Time won’t make recovering from injuries any easier. Bulaga enters 2019 on the last year of his contract and the Packers could recover over $6.6 million should they chose to cut him.
Despite these concerns, the Green Bay Packers should absolutely stand by their man. There is no heir on the roster ready to take over as starting right tackle. This becomes painfully obvious whenever Bulaga gets injured. Jason Spriggs isn’t the answer and its unlikely he ever will be. When the Packers moved on from Josh Sitton, Lane Taylor was able to step in. But when T.J. Lang left there wasn’t a successor and the Packers have yet to find a long term solution at right guard. Repeating this mistake would be costly.
While Green Bay could look to free agency, there isn’t a surplus of talented offensive tackles available. Its hard to believe the Packers could find someone as talented as Bulaga for a similar price.
If I look at the roster and take off my homer glasses (not my regular ones though cause I need those to see) its easy to see that this team has multiple positions of need. The Packers have massive deficiencies at edge, safety, right guard, and tight end. Adding right tackle to that list doesn’t do the team any favors in 2019.
But the main reason the Green Bay Packers should roll with Bryan Bulaga at right tackle is because he’s a really, really good right tackle. A healthy Bryan Bulaga is one of the best pass blocking right tackles in the league. Pro Football Focus had Bulaga as their 2nd best pass blocking right tackle and overall 20th best offensive tackle in 2018. He also played 72.72% of offensive snaps, good for 7th on offense. Even at age 29 and with a concerning injury track record, Bulaga played often for the Packers in 2018 and played very well.
College offensive lineman are having tougher transitions to the NFL and snaps are hard to come by. Bryan Bulaga is experienced and talented. Even if hurt, I would rather have 12 or 13 games with Bulaga this season than a full 16 of a lesser talent. And should he stay healthy a new short-term contract could be in the cards.
The Green Bay Packers are getting younger in many ways. Fresh approaches and a more energetic environment will benefit the team considerably. But a team needs experienced veterans who know how to win and Bryan Bulaga is one of the best on the roster. Moving on in 2019 would be a mistake.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.