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 packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.