The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line has some unique quirks among NFL teams. We see Aaron Rodgers sacked more frequently when we’d like, particularly on third down. But when one looks at the individual battles and context, this has more to do with Rodgers than the line. Rodgers tends to hold the ball for long periods of time, increasing the likelihood of being pressured or sacked.
The stats show the effect of this, as according to PFF, the Packers offensive line ranks 22nd in pressures allowed, but are first in time to allow a pressure (2.62) seconds. The line is incredible at giving Rodgers the time he needs, and sit at PFF’s 6th ranked offensive line. This is an excellent group with ideal chemistry, even while learning a new zone-run scheme. While both starting guards are new to the team, David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga are one of the best tackle tandems in the league, and Corey Linsley is one of the top centers in the game. But no king rules forever. How long can this unit stay together?
Bryan Bulaga will be a free agent, and Bakhtiari and Linsley’s deals end in 2021. The Packers’ front office has important decisions to make for the group over the next two seasons. Third contracts are a rarity in Green Bay With that in mind, what will the Packers’ starting offensive line look like in 2020?
Elgton Jenkins is as secure as a player can get. After Lane Taylor’s injury threw the rookie guard into the starting role, he thrived. Jenkins was one of the best guards in the NFL, allowing zero sacks and earning All-Rookie team honors. Jenkins’ star is bright, and he’ll only keep getting better. A star player on a rookie deal is an obvious lock.
Billy Turner came to Green Bay and was a significant upgrade over Byron Bell. Ranking sites are mixed on Turner: at one point he was both the highest-ranked and one of the lowest-ranked guards depending on which site you looked at. But it can’t be denied how much of an improvement he was compared to the 2018 team. Turner is on a 4-year, $28 million deal. He’s not going anywhere. The only question for Turner is where he’ll be along the line. If Bulaga isn’t signed, he’s one of the most likely options at play at right tackle in 2020. If so, right guard is once again a question mark, likely filled with someone deep on the roster, a draft pick, or maybe Lane Taylor?
By his lofty standards, 2019 wasn’t David Bakhtiari’s best year, which means he was still one of the best tackles in the game. Number 69 finally wasn’t snubbed by the Pro Bowl, ending a streak of making All-Pro, but missing the Pro Bowl. And he still made 2nd team All-Pro. After quarterback, no position on offense is as important as left tackle. Even with his contract up in 2021, Green Bay will find a way to navigate that extension and potential cap hit.
Bryan Bulaga’s status will be one of the most closely followed and impactful free agent stories. When healthy, Bulaga is one of the best right tackles around. Khalil Mack was nullified in two games thanks to the Iowa star. Bulaga was a stud against the many elite pass-rushers faced by the Packers in 2019. The Bosa’s gave him trouble, but they gave just about everyone troubles. Often maligned as injury-prove, Bulaga didn’t miss a single game in 2019.
Resigning him won’t be cheap; he’ll be expected to average at least $10m a year, likely more. Arizona just agreed to a $45m, three-year contract with tackle D.J. Humphries, and Bulaga is a much better player. The market for offensive tackles will always be pricey, and good ones rarely hit the market. The sad truth is that the Packers need cap space and might not be able to afford Bulaga.
If Bulaga isn’t signed, Jared Veldheer is the next man up, but it’s unknown if he’ll still want to play in 2020 after being lured from retirement. Alex Light wouldn’t be an ideal starter. The Packers could choose to let Bulaga walk and draft a tackle in the first round, but that’s always a tall order, and with pick 30, Green Bay might end up with OT8 or 9.
Corey Linsley is a top-tier center, and the relationship between center and quarterback is vital, especially when Aaron Rodgers likes to mess with the game clock as often as he does. While Green Bay wouldn’t move on from Linsley because of performance, he could become a cap casualty. Lucas Patrick just signed a team-friendly extension and performed well when called upon. I don’t love the idea of moving on, but the Packers always have a surprise cut, and it could be Linsley.
With this in mind, the possibilities would be:
Left tackle: David Bakhtiari
Left guard: Elgton Jenkins
Center: Corey Linsley/Lucas Patrick
Right guard: Billy Turner/draft pick/depth player/cheap free agent/Lane Taylor?
Right tackle: Bryan Bulaga/Billy Turner/draft pickMatt 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.