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Packers 2017 free-agent offensive linemen: Big decision on T.J. Lang awaits

The Packers have to decide whether to sign Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang to a third contract.

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Today, Acme Packing Company continues the examination of the Green Bay Packers’ 2016 roster. Each day over the next two weeks, we will break down a different position on the roster with examinations of the players on the 53-man roster in 2016, the contributions of new additions and players who signed new contracts, and players who have contracts expiring this offseason.

Between all of the Packers' free-agent decisions, arguably none looms larger than that of their most experienced offensive lineman, T.J. Lang. The team has long prioritized protecting franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and the front office must decide whether to pursue a third contract -- a rarity for players at any position -- for Lang, or find a younger, healthier lineman to start in his place.

T.J. Lang

Free-agent status: Unrestricted
Experience: Eight years
2016 statistics: 13 starts
Expiring contract: Four-year, $20.8 million deal

In 2016, the Packers prioritized an extension for left tackle David Bakhtiari over new deals for Josh Sitton and Lang. While Sitton didn't make it to Week 1, Lang stuck with the team for the final year of his contract. The veteran guard played well, earning his first Pro Bowl nod despite battling multiple injuries. Now the team has to decide whether to bring him back for a potentially hefty cost or to let him walk before his body breaks down.

On a unit full of brawlers, no one plays nastier than Lang. He has given the Packers everything they could ask for, even gritting through foot and hip problems to do so. While Bakhtiari might have supplanted Lang as the team's best lineman, Lang remains the tone setter for the group.

With Green Bay falling just a game short of the Super Bowl, the chances of Lang returning appear decent. The team doesn't want to overcommit to him on years while the player aims to cash in one last time during his career. Though the forces of free agency could change the calculation, a new deal in the vicinity of $25 million for three years seems reasonable at this stage. Whether one comes to fruition remains to be seen.

JC Tretter

Free-agent status: Unrestricted
Experience: Four years
2016 statistics: Seven starts
Expiring contract: Four-year, $2,575,908 deal

After years of near misses, JC Tretter finally received the opportunity to start at center with the Packers. The young lineman performed well consistently, holding down the position until midseason when a knee injury forced him out of the lineup. That injury eventually resulted in surgery, ending his season.

The surgery -- along with a startlingly long list of injuries for a player yet to turn 26 -- clouds Tretter's future with the team. If he recovers well and the Packers believe he has the strength to handle guard, perhaps he re-signs in lieu of Lang. However, if management believes Tretter cannot stay on the field, perhaps the young lineman leaves Green Bay in free agency instead.

And Tretter could find a lucrative deal despite his limited experience. Starting linemen in their mid-20s generally come in short supply, and Tretter has shown that he can also handle tackle duties if needed. That versatility should land him a nice multi-year deal with some team this spring.

Don Barclay

Free-agent status: Unrestricted
Experience: Five years (missed 2014 with ACL tear)
2016 statistics: 16 game appearances, one start
Expiring contract: One-year, $700,000 deal

Though Don Barclay only entered the league in 2012, it already seems like a lifetime ago. Barclay has become a favorite of the Packers' coaching staff, with Mike McCarthy referring to him at times as a "sixth starter" among the offensive line. Still, Barclay has never looked the same since suffering a torn ACL before the 2014 season, and his play this season nearly sank the offense.

Barclay could return for another season in Green Bay, but the acquisition of Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy in the 2016 draft suggests that the team plans to move on. Either way, Barclay shouldn't command more than a one-year deal.

Jason B. Hirschhorn is an award-winning journalist and Pro Football Writers of America member. He covers the NFL for Sports on Earth and SB Nation. He also serves as the senior writer and editor for Acme Packing Company, a Green Bay Packers blog.