Is Wagner the Right Call?

Instead of shelling out the cash to keep the offensive line in tack, the Green Bay Packers’ front office took the feasible route toward finding their next right tackle. On Monday, the team signed former Detroit Lion Rick Wagner to a two-year deal worth $11 million. Meanwhile, former Green Bay right tackle Bryan Bulaga signed to the Los Angeles Chargers on Tuesday for three years, $30 million. The question of whether or not it was worth sparing the salary cap will be answered in due time.

Leading up to free agency, retaining Bulaga was an assumed priority. Despite injuries in previous years, he was coming off one of his better seasons as a pro while starting all 16 games. According to Pro Football Focus, Bulaga allowed just four sacks in nearly 900 offensive snaps and an overall grade of 77.8.

This helped Green Bay’s offense become reinvigorated in 2019 after two mundane years under the previous regime. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sacked 13 fewer times than the year before. To some, this might be an underrated stat considering the team started two new faces in Billy Turner and Elgton Jenkins upfront. However, as always, Bulaga was a rock of consistency.

Unfortunately, the team’s new right tackle was not as good in 2019. PFF graded Wagner at 59.0, the lowest of his career. The Lions saved $9 million in cap space by parting ways with Wagner after they signed him to a five-year deal worth $47.5 million in 2017. Clearly, they saw something they didn’t like.

So while Green Bay certainly saved some money by opting for Wagner instead of Bulaga, it’s difficult to get excited. The two are practically the same age and while Bulaga likely has at least a few good years ahead of him, Wagner is coming off arguably his worst as a pro.

On the surface, it looks like a bargain, but solid offensive line play is a minimum requirement for a high-functioning offense. Bulaga gave Green Bay the best shot of building on last year. With Wagner, they are entering somewhat of the unknown.

The financial experts will say this was a smart move. If Wagner comes close to returning to his old self, all will be forgotten, but for the moment, it doesn’t feel right.


Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. He has covered the Packers for over five years and currently works with Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.



9 thoughts on “Is Wagner the Right Call?

  1. I felt same as you.
    Hopefully, there are other factors that played in for Gute and staff thatwe are unaware of.

  2. Wagner may not even start. Veldeer would do fine at RT. Same could be said about Kirksey. He’s been injured a lot the past 2 years.
    They have plenty of needs…TE, ILB, DL, WR. Only so much $$ to spread around and need to resign some of our vets too.
    Think Gutey needs to be trusted after some pretty smart moves in last year.

    1. Veldheer isn’t under contract. Thats the problem with the statement that Veldheer would do fine. WE didn’t miss a beat with him in there, but he was essentially retired from the NFL, was having issues getting well enough to start for NE, and was finally released from NE. I loved this acquisition of Veldheer, knew he could play well, the issues were could he stay on the field, or did he even want to? Not sure I love the Wagner deal, feels like a declining pig and a poke, we’ll see.

  3. No guarantee Bulaga would have made it through 2020 healthy, and I assume the Pack will get a relatively solid compensatory pick (4th rd?) next year. So it’s the equivalent of trading Bulaga for Wagner and a pick—and saving $5M in the process. Finding a way to keep Veldheer is still important

  4. There is little doubt tackle and WR will be the top draft choices…Wagner is a solid replacement and short time starter….I hope they hit on a rookie….given our draft position a decent tackle will be a reliable choice…good defense is gone by then and a second round WR will be as good as late first….
    So chill this is a depth of rooster move….how did Sutton and Lange do in their final years…some early success and then hurt….

  5. Keep the offensive line in tack? Heheh. You mean intact? Do people even try anymore?

  6. Put this way, getting something for about half price does not look so good.

  7. If we are looking for a stop gap, we could do worse. Wagner had some solid years with the Rams, which he could get back too, but it’s pretty evident we’ll target an OT high in the draft

  8. With Bulaga’s injuries piling up over the last few years, paying him $10 million would be risky. If Wagner doesn’t hold up, Turner can play tackle. Use the draft to find a good young guy and work him in when possible.

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