Knowing that several of his team’s key offensive linemen are set to hit free agency after the upcoming season, Green Bay Packers General Manager Ted Thompson took steps to address the line in the 2016 NFL Draft. Thompson used a pair of picks on college left tackles - one in the second round and one in the sixth - to try to build up the depth behind the starting line and hopefully bring some potential starters into the mix in case the team is unable to re-sign the free agents next March.
In addition to the new additions, the Packers have four backup linemen on the 90-man roster who were on the 53 last season plus one returning practice squad player and three undrafted free agents. With so many options, the team suddenly has a glut of choices to make when they make their final cuts after this year’s training camp. At least five of the 15 players currently on the team will likely be released, and potentially a sixth.
Here’s a look at what to expect from each player as training camp and the 2016 season approach.
David Bakhtiari, #69
6’4”, 310 pounds
The starting left tackle job belongs to Bakhtiari for another year, as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. The Packers could put an all-out push on him to try to ink him to a new extension during the season, but the going rate for left tackles who are good-to-great pass-blockers is awfully high. Expect him to play well again and hit the market in March.
Josh Sitton, #71
6’3”, 318 pounds
College: Central Florida
Like Bakhtiari, Sitton will be a free agent next offseason as well. He is the only member of this line who has made a Pro Bowl, but he has done so by being a truly elite pass-blocker as a guard. He’s also the most experienced player on the line. One thing to watch this season will be how Sitton’s back holds up - he has begun to miss practice time consistently during the season with recurring issues and although it did not cost him any game action last year, it remains something worth monitoring.
Corey Linsley, #63
6’3”, 301 pounds
College: Ohio State
Anchoring the middle of the line this season will be Linsley, whose quickness off the line of scrimmage is absurd. He goes from snap to engaging his man faster than just about any center in the league, and he uses his excellent functional strength to be a punishing run blocker. Thankfully, he has two more years on his contract, so Green Bay can feel comfortable at center through at least 2017.
T.J. Lang, #70
6’4”, 318 pounds
College: Eastern Michigan
The third free agent-to-be is Lang, whose second contract is up after this year. Lang is more effective as a run-blocker than Sitton, but any dip in pass-blocking ability is minimal. APC has been on record saying that Lang is the free agent most likely to get a contract extension mid-season; keep an eye out for news of those contract negotiations.
Bryan Bulaga, #75
6’5”, 314 pounds
Though injuries continue to plague Bulaga, he has been able to tough it out relatively well the last few years, making 15 and 12 starts each of the past two seasons. And perhaps surprisingly, he’s only in his age 27 season, whereas Bakhtiari will turn 25 in September. If he can remain healthy, he is a solid, steady blocker on the right side in all phases, and should be in no danger of losing his job to anything other than further health issues.
Don Barclay, #67
6’4”, 305 pounds
College: West Virginia
Barclay filled in for an injured Bulaga at times in 2015, but was still learning to play on his surgically-repaired knee and largely struggled. He had an even tougher time in Arizona when asked to play on the left side. After going unsigned for several weeks in free agency, Barclay returns on a one-year deal in the hopes that he can prove that last year’s struggles were an aberration and that he is back to the form he displayed as a solid starter at right tackle in 2013.
JC Tretter, #73
After an injury in 2014 cost him his shot at the starting center job, Tretter has been the Packers’ catch-all backup linemen, plugging in at center and both tackle positions. His performance at left tackle in the Wild Card game in Washington was a godsend after multiple failed attempts to replace an injured Bakhtiari, and he’ll remain a critical depth piece in 2016. He will hit free agency in March as well, however, but hopefully will return to Green Bay with a chance to help replace one of the veterans who departs.
Lane Taylor, #65
6’3”, 324 pounds
College: Oklahoma State
Taylor was a restricted free agent in the offseason, but the Packers gave him a surprising two-year deal, signifying that they see him as more than just another backup lineman. Indeed, Taylor played well in two starts in 2015 - one at each guard position - and has shown steady improvement each year in the league.
Josh Walker, #79
6’5”, 328 pounds
College: Middle Tennessee State
After spending some time on the Packers’ practice squad in 2014, Walker made it through a full season on the active roster last season and saw action in 13 games. He was pressed into emergency action at one point as a tackle, but his NFL position is most certainly at guard, where he was effective last preseason.
Matt Rotheram, #74
6’5”, 325 pounds
First full NFL season (on practice squad in 2015)
Coming out of Paul Chryst’s power running game at Pitt, Rotheram is a massive mauler in the run game who had work to do last season as a pass-blocking guard. This year, he has taken some snaps at center as well in the spring to add to his value, but his shot at the roster will come down to whether he can demonstrate that he indeed has improved in pass protection.
Jason Spriggs, #78
6’6”, 301 pounds
The Packers traded up in round two for Spriggs, a sign that they love him as a player and have some plans for him long-term. He can immediately help out as both a left and right tackle, and given Bulaga’s injury history he may have some opportunities to fill in as a starter as a rookie.
Kyle Murphy, #68
6’6”, 305 pounds
The second of two Stanford players picked by the Packers in this year’s draft was Murphy, who played left tackle for the Cardinal. He could end up at right tackle in the NFL or he could move inside to guard; where he lines up this summer should give an idea of where the team sees his future, but it’s also possible he could end up being a swing linemen in the mold of an early T.J. Lang, who pitched in at both right tackle and guard before settling into the starting lineup inside.
Jacob Flores, #57
6’3”, 300 pounds
Flores is one of the players towards the bottom of the depth chart, and was signed as an undrafted free agent in May. He has little chance of making the roster, but the Packers tend to keep a player who can contribute at center on the practice squad, so if he has a nice camp he could earn an invite back after final cuts.
Lucas Patrick, #62
6’3”, 313 pounds
Cornell, Dartmouth, Stanford, Duke - these are all highly-respected academic institutions, and the Packers have plenty of smart players on their offensive line. Patrick, a guard, will be in the mix for a practice squad spot, but offers little in positional versatility.
Josh James, #72
6’5”, 314 pounds
College: Carroll (Montana)
There’s a trend here - the Packers have one undrafted free agent rookie at each of the three positions on the offensive line. James is the tackle, and he must have impressed the Packers in his pre-draft visit. However, due to the logjam of veterans and draft picks ahead of him on the depth chart at tackle, it’s tough to imagine him finding a way to make it onto the active roster in 2016.