If you’re like me, you did a double or even triple take when the report that the Green Bay Packers were going to release Josh Sitton came up. I thought it might have been an obvious mistake by the Packers, but then I started to think about the situation a little more. There has to be more to the story, and the Packers always have some type of a plan in place. Ted Thompson’s plans usually work out for the better more often than not. So let’s take a look at some reasons for the release of one of the better offensive lineman that the Packers have had over the last several years and where the Packers go from here.
Reason number one is the Packers want to get younger up front. Sitton is 30 years old and an impending free agent. JC Tretter is also an impending free agent but only 25 years old. Tretter has been the most impressive lineman this preseason and the Packers want to see if he is worth extending long term. For that to happen, he needs a place to play. Thompson and company must have felt that giving Tretter an audition at left guard (once Corey Linsley returns from injury) was the best option. T.J. Lang is also a free agent but 28 years old and has much less mileage on his body than Sitton. The only other free agent is David Bahktiari at left tackle and while Tretter played very well in the playoff game last year, he doesn’t have frame or tools that would benefit him at the left tackle position long term.
Another reason is money. Sitton was primed to make $6.85 million this year and might not be worth that much any more. An argument against that is that the Packers currently have a little under $9.7 million in salary cap space, according to overthecap.com, and one year left of Sitton’s salary wouldn’t be that big of a deal. However, if Thompson wants to gets some of these other free agents extended before the season ends, that $6.85 million will come in handy. I’ve already mentioned that Bahktiari, Lang and Tretter are free agents, but a few more important impending free agents are Eddie Lacy, Jared Cook and Datone Jones. That extra money can help extend any combination of those players before the season ends.
With the release now official, where do the Packers go from here? I already mentioned the possibility of Tretter replacing Sitton at left guard once Linsley comes back from injury. Another option is Tretter getting reps at guard with Don Barclay jumping into the starting center role. I’m sure that makes most of you (and me) cringe, but Barclay has gotten plenty of reps this preseason and has gotten much better as the weeks have gone by. Tretter gets his shot right from day one to inherit the left guard position and prove he’s worth a contract extension.
Another option keeps Tretter at center and moves Bryan Bulaga over to the left guard spot with rookie Jason Spriggs manning the right tackle spot. Bulaga has played guard quite well in the past and it gives the second round rookie his chance to shine right away. While Spriggs is still a little raw, offensive line coach James Campen loves Spriggs and might be looking to get him some playing time right away.
The last option that could be possible came up when I was emailing Tex about the Sitton release. He mentioned the idea of moving Bahktiari to left guard with Spriggs taking over at left tackle. It is a viable option, especially if the Packers see Spriggs as the left tackle of the future. The biggest problem I see with that is that it might cause a rift between the Packers and Bahktiari. With Bahktiari heading into free agency, the biggest hit to his value would be getting moved from the left tackle spot. A move like that might make Bahktiari frustrated and decide to leave the Packers in the offseason and with how well he has played in the past, I don’t want to see that happen. Bahktiari has been a very good find at left tackle and can still be someone to build around in the future.
While we are still looking for a clear answer to why the Packers have released Josh Sitton, one thing is clear: the Packers offensive line will have a new and younger look this year. I still feel they will have one of the better offensive lines in the league and Aaron Rodgers will have plenty of time to throw the ball with Eddie Lacy running the ball to balance us out. This is an intriguing story that will play out through the entire season. Will this be another good move by Ted Thompson or will the Packers regret breaking up one of the longest tenured lines in the game?