We’ve heard it a lot in the last few decades, the NFL is a business. No matter how good of a player you are, or how popular with the fans you may be, you can still lose your job at the drop of a dime. Perhaps you’re heading into the twilight of your career. Or maybe even your contract is outweighing your performance. Anyone can be replaced. It’s no different heading into this offseason for the Green Bay Packers. Outside of the obvious Quarterback question everyone has, we have a situation at Left Tackle to watch as well. Could the Rise of Tom, be the end of Bakhtiari?
Since arriving in Green Bay as a rookie in 2013, David Bakhtiari has been an anchor at the left side of the Offensive Line, protecting Aaron Rodgers‘ blind side. He’s been elected to the Pro Bowl three times and earned AP All-Pro honors in 2018. Number 69 was basically a steal in the 2013 draft where he was picked in the fourth round, 109th overall and earned the starting job at Left Tackle right off the bat. Off the field, Bakhtiari has certainly endeared himself to the Green Bay faithful with his fun-loving nature. Whether he’s chugging beers at Bucks games or just joking around with teammates and reporters, Packer fans love David Bakhtiari.
In December 2020, an ACL injury sidelined Bakhtiari, only allowing him to participate in one game until his return week 3 of 2022. However, after nine games, Bakhtiari could unfortunately be sidelined again for a while due to an unexpected appendectomy.
In Bakhtiari’s absence this season, a rookie has risen to the occasion of replacing the All-Pro
Ever since Zach Tom entered the building, he’s been carving out his spot on the Offensive Line. He’s seen time at Guard and time in Bakhtiari’s position at Left Tackle. Most would think, in the absence of an All-Pro Left Tackle, you’re going to see a difference, right? With Zach Tom at the position, not exactly. He has routinely shown up to have given up zero pressures and has shown up as a key blocker in the running game as well.
A bad game at Left Tackle for Zach Tom so far has been him giving up one QB pressure. Most teams would kill to have that kind of a “bad game.” There is little doubt, that Zach Tom could be a starter on Green Bay’s line for several years into the future.
Could it be that nine years after selecting Bakhtiari in the fourth round to be the future at Left Tackle, that history could be repeating itself with Zach Tom also being selected in the fourth round?
So, what could this mean for David Bakhtiari?
Since his return from the ACL injury, GM Brian Gutekunst stated that Bakhtiari has played at a “really, really high level.” But how much longer will that continue? And will D-Bak be able to stay healthy?
This, and the fact that Bakhtiari is going to be due $29.1M in 2023, and $33.1M in 2024, could weigh into the future. Sure, David Bakhtiari is still playing at a high level when healthy. But with a young Zach Tom almost mirroring that production, and costing much less, it wouldn’t be a surprise if #69’s last season in Green Bay is upon us.
Will David Bakhtiari make it easy for the Packers and just call it a career?
Retirement could be on the table for Bakhtiari perhaps. After having to rehab so much and go through now four surgeries in the last two years, it might not be far-fetched for D-Bak to decide that enough is enough if Green Bay decides he’s not in their future. Also, he and his wife Frankie welcomed their first child on Wednesday. Perhaps the incentive to enjoy life and the spoils of his great career with his new family might weigh his decision.
But then again, perhaps he’s traveled too long a road to recovery to call it quits so soon after. Could 69 then end up in a different uniform?
We definitely don’t want to think about David Bakhtiari on another team. But Green Bay fans are certainly no stranger to their legendary players ending up in other uniforms before retirement. In fact, it seems to be a tradition of the last 30 years. With the Packers in a salary cap purgatory, unless there’s some restructuring, it could be a reality for number 69.
With every career that winds to an end, a new one begins. The Packers would be very spoiled to have Zach Tom turn out to be as good of a player as David Bakhtiari. They have a decision to make now, whether to see if it’s time to find out if Zach Tom is their future at LT, or if they need to keep their All-Pro David Bakhtiari for at least one more season.
Greg Meinholz is a 24/7/365 Packers fan. When he’s not spending time with his family, he can be found meditating in his Packers shrine with a good beer. You can follow him on twitter at @gmeinholz.