During the opening week of free agency the Green Bay Packers deferred from their traditional ‘draft and develop’ strategy by moving to sign 30-year old free agent Martellus Bennett. A move that will hopefully breathe more life into the offense run by a quarterback in the prime of his career. Unfortunately bringing on Bennett made keeping other prominent players on the Packers’ free agent chopping block less likely.
In total, Ted Thompson signed three free agents from other teams (Martellus Bennett, Davon House, Lance Kendricks) plus re-signing Nick Perry and a handful of role players; however, they let several key names walk away. Of those players - T.J. Lang, Micah Hyde, Eddie Lacy, Julius Peppers, J.C. Tretter, and Datone Jones – three players could prove to be particularly detrimental to Green Bay if they are unable to find suitable replacements.
By far, the most difficult free agent loss to swallow was that of Pro-Bowl guard T.J. Lang. At 29-years old, Lang had spent his entire career in Green Bay after being selected in the fourth-round of the 2009 draft and had been a starter at his position since 2011.
Although he struggled with a nagging hip injury last season, he remained an active member of Green Bay’s offensive line. Lang had hoped to re-sign in Green Bay, after finishing a four-year, $20.8 million contract extension at the end of this season but the Packers were unable to match the three-year $28.5 million deal made by his hometown team Detroit Lions.
So far it seems as if there is no clear replacement for Lang’s position outside of Don Barclay who the Packers retained on a one-year $1.3 million deal. Barclay filled in while Lang was injured last season but struggled with a shoulder injury of his own. According to ESPN, other possible fill-ins on the Packers’ roster for this position include Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy and even Bryan Bulaga.
The most likely scenario is that Barclay will step in as the full-time starter but for now, this position is a big TBD until after the draft.
The Packers have made it painfully obvious that they are fine with letting expensive offensive lineman walk. Before T.J. Lang signed with Detroit last week, center J.C. Tretter opted to leave Green Bay and sign a three-year, $16.75 million deal with the Cleveland Browns.
At 26-years old, Tretter spent his entire four-year career in Green Bay where he was one of the best centers in the league when healthy. When is the key term here. Tretter suffered a broken ankle in his rookie season after which he returned and later struggled with a knee injury.
Letting Tretter go seemed to be a relatively easy decision with the presence of Corey Linsely as a viable replacement. Linsley is in the final year of a four-year, $2.4 million rookie contract.
The running back position is currently listed as a big question mark in Green Bay. Eddie Lacy was another player who had hoped to remain with the Packers but repeated weight and health issues made re-signing him difficult.
Although the Packers already have a replacement lined up with Ty Montgomery, it’s obvious a sturdy back like Lacy can go a long way in Green Bay (when healthy of course). Between Lacy and James Starks, the Packers had relative versatility at that position that they hadn’t had since the departure of Ahman Green.
Finding a back the Packers can rely on to either supplement Montgomery or even start will be important this offseason.
Obviously the start of the season is still months away and a lot can happen before September. Hopefully, Ted Thompson can continue to add more tools to Aaron Rodgers’ belt and find solid options to replace the lost offensive lineman.