It’s not an immediate need, but the Green Bay Packers should and likely will need to address their offensive line early in the 2016 NFL Draft.
We would be surprised if they don’t come away with an offensive lineman in the first four rounds. The reason is two-fold.
First, we all saw what happened when the Packers weren’t prepared with a capable backup tackle in 2015.
Regardless of where the Packers plugged Don Barclay into the lineup — right or left tackle — he was terrible. Barclay gave up a team-high nine sacks, despite starting just five games. In the brief time the Packers’ other backup tackle, Josh Walker, saw action, it became readily apparent he was even worse.
You could argue that the Packers eventually found their backup tackle in jack-of-all-trades J.C. Tretter. We wouldn’t be opposed to Tretter entering training camp as the top guy in that role, but let’s get this position solidified.
Bryan Bulaga, who isn’t very good to begin with, gets injured pretty much every year.
Not having a capable backup at the tackle position can derail a season faster than you can say Barclay.
Second, it’s about the contracts.
The Packers have four key offensive lineman with contracts that expire after the 2016 season. They are left tackle David Bakhtiari, guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, and Tretter.
The Packers simply aren’t going to be able to pay all three of those starters top dollar.
We’d wager Bakhtiari and Tretter are near locks to return. Baktiari plays left tackle and does so (mostly) adequately. His position alone makes him more valuable than other offensive linemen. Tretter, as a non-starter, won’t command huge money. More importantly, as a guy who can play five positions, he’s too important to let get away.
Sitton and Lang, meanwhile, are up in the air.
The Packers simply can’t afford to invest big money in four of the five positions on the offensive line. It’s almost impossible to work with the salary cap. They need at least two of those guys to be on more bargain-like deals.
Bakhtiari will be getting a substantial contract. The Packers have vastly overpaid Bulaga to the tune of $6.75 million annually and his deal makes it prohibitive to release him until 2018, at the earliest.
That means the Packers are very likely going to have to choose between Sitton and Lang or let both walk.
They began to prepare themselves for that eventuality by giving backup guard Lane Taylor a two-year deal earlier this offseason. In theory, they could also plug Tretter into a starting guard position, as well.
Of course, as we mentioned, he’ll be a free agent in 2017 also.
The Packers need reinforcements.
That’s why we wouldn’t be surprised to see them nab a guard early in this draft. If they do, you’ll know why.
He’s being groomed as the 2017 replacement for T.J. Lang or Josh Sitton.