On July 29, 2021, the Green Bay Packers signed right tackle Dennis Kelly to a one-year deal. Let’s meet Kelly and break down what impact we can predict he will have on the team going forward.
Since taking over for the late Ted Thompson, Packers’ GM Brian Gutekunst has been more active in building his roster via free agency than his predecessor.
Fortunately for “Gutey,” one group he hasn’t had to invest much in is the offensive line, besides a few in-season additions.
He inherited a stable group and has made it stronger via the draft and by signing the versatile Billy Turner in 2019.
It seemed like Gutey would look at making another free agency splash this offseason, though, as the Packers entered 2021 with the most uncertainty along its offensive line in years.
The ambiguity wasn’t around talent, rather who would fill each position.
The Packers lost centre Corey Linsley and right tackle Rick Wagner in free agency, and all-pro left tackle David Bakhtiari is recovering from a torn ACL.
Turner seemed like a natural fit to fill in at left tackle after starting four games there last season.
Still, some concern could’ve resided in the front office after he struggled in the NFC Championship game.
Even with options to fill both tackle spots, the team’s limited depth at tackle led them to add reliable veteran Dennis Kelly.
Kelly enters his 10th season in the NFL after playing for the Eagles from 2012-2015 and the Titans from 2016-2020.
He started all 16 games at right tackle for the Titans in 2020, successfully allowing zero sacks.
The veteran has played over 3400 snaps in his ten seasons but was never looked at as a #1 right tackle until last year after the Titans lost Jack Conklin to free agency.
Head Coach Matt LaFleur seemed excited about adding Kelly to the mix.
LaFleur noted the transition to a new offense should be easy for the big man, as the Packers use similar verbiage to his previous offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, who took over for LaFleur in Tennessee.
Besides adding stability, Kelly brings an infectious personality, coveted leadership, and size that offensive line coaches dream about to the Packers locker room.
The Purdue product is a towering 6’8” 321lbs. His presence paired with rookie centre Josh Myers (6’5” 312lbs) could make the Packers line one of the biggest groups in the NFL this year.
The addition of Kelly leaves LaFleur and Co. with the tough task of deciding which five of their uber-talented lineman will start in week 1 — a problem many teams wish they had.
There are seven linemen fighting for five spots.
At left tackle, Billy Turner or Elgton Jenkins could start.
At centre, Patrick or Myers are the two candidates.
And at right tackle, Turner, Jenkins, or Kelly could start.
The versatility that each lineman hold gives the Packers seemingly endless possibilities.
Jenkins could start at any of the five positions, but with Kelly in the fold, is likely to hold down left guard or left tackle.
Turner can also play four out of five positions, but he is a tackle by nature, and it seems his best chance is to fill one of the two ends.
It’s also worth noting Kelly’s size and recent success at right tackle could make him the clubhouse leader for the right tackle job.
Josh Myers early breakout at centre suggests he will win anchor the line this season.
Patrick’s experience and success at guard would point to him securing the right guard spot, leaving six men to battle for three spots.
I believe Jon Runyan has and will show enough in the preseason to warrant a starting job.
I also believe Elgton Jenkins showed last season he is the better option to protect Aaron Rodgers’ blindside until Bakhtiari is back.
That means Turner would battle Kelly for the right tackle spot, and it’s anybody’s guess as to who would start there.
Despite my appreciation for Turner, I think the Packers’ week 1 line will be (going from LT to RT) Jenkins, Runyan, Myers, Patrick, Kelly.
A viable possibility to keep in mind is Jenkins starting at left guard while Turner fills in at left tackle. This would push Runyan to the bench.
As mentioned, the possibilities are endless.
We know that the Packers will once again field one of the premier offensive lines in football this season and have great depth at all five positions once David Bakhtiari is at full health.
Dennis Kelly will provide the Packers with a boost on and off the field and could be looked at as one of the vocal leaders by the season’s end.——————
Joshua Frey-Sam is a journalism student and aspiring sportscaster hailing from Winnipeg, Canada. A Packers fan since 2005, Josh has worked to master the financial and scouting aspect of the NFL over the past few years. Josh remains a firm believer that Dez did not, in fact, catch the ball. You can follow him on twitter at @jfreysam.