The offseason position previews continue with the offensive line. Here’s a look at where the roster stands as of today:
Since there are a few more players to look at here, let’s take a look at the players whose futures are in doubt, starting with the four slated to become free agents in March.
McCray, Patrick and Pankey will all fall under the exclusive rights designation, meaning if the Packers decide to offer them contract, they must accept it or sit out the season. Given the holes along the offensive line, particularly at right guard, I would expect at least two of these three to be retained, if only for depth purposes.
Byron Bell is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, and all indications point to the team preparing to move on and find younger options to compete for the aforementioned right guard spot. There were reservations with Bell’s signing last offseason and he didn’t do much to dispel those doubts in 2019.
Outside of the impending free agents, the name most speculated about this offseason has been Bryan Bulaga. Despite starting 14 games in 2018, there are concerns about his age combined with his injury history. Bulaga was placed on injured reserve with a hip injury in 2012 and missed seven games before sitting out the entire 2013 season after tearing his ACL in training camp. In 2017, he played in just five games and suffered a second ACL tear, cutting his season short once again.
Bulaga reportedly turned down the Packers’ request to take a pay cut last offseason and is entering the final year of his contract. He’ll turn 30 in March, and while that’s not exactly ancient for an NFL offensive lineman, the two knee injuries certainly need to be factored in to the equation. According to Over the Cap, Green Bay would be out just $1.6 million if they choose to cut Bulaga, with a cap savings of $6.75 million. With a new regime in place, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the Packers move on.
Jason Spriggs’ status in Green Bay is an enigma. While he probably hasn’t been as bad as some would have you believe, he definitely has not risen above backup level play at any point. As the roster stands, that’s fine, and if he needs to come in for spot duty every now and then, the Packers will get by. What they won’t be able to sustain is Spriggs as their number one option, which would indicate that either Bulaga has suffered another significant injury or the team has failed to sign a better option.
One thing that appears certain is Green Bay adding new blood to the offensive line mix, possibly through free agency and certainly by way of the draft. With their success resting largely on Aaron Rodgers’ shoulders, they can ill-afford to skimp on protecting him.