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Packers 2018 Free Agent OL: Jahri Evans might be one and done in Green Bay

Injuries to the Packers’ offensive line allowed for some younger linemen to get good development reps and provide depth for the future.

Green Bay Packers v Cleveland Browns

Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2017 season. Today, we examine the offensive line.

On the offensive line, the Packers have five players that are either entering unrestricted free agency or exclusive-rights free agency. Depth was a huge necessity for the Packers this past season as David Bakhtiari missed four games and Bryan Bulaga missed 11.

Three of free agent linemen are likely to be tendered, while two are entering free agency and may be seeing their way out of Green Bay.

Jahri Evans

NFL Experience: 12 years
FA Status: Unrestricted free agent
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $2.25 million
2017 Stats: 14 games played, 4 sacks allowed

Now a free agent, Jahri Evans provided some veteran stability for the Packers line in his lone season in Green Bay. Evans will be 35 at the beginning of the next season, but he was the only consistent piece on the right side of the offensive line. The veteran showed experience pays while helping the Packers average 107.8 rushing yards per game.

Evans gave the Packers a chance to plug someone in while the younger linemen on the roster learned from him and developed the technique that’s needed to be successful as an NFL lineman.

The Packers will be deciding soon whether or not to re-sign Jahri Evans or look for a new player to fill the right guard spot. Evans could be (and should be) looking for one last contract for multiple years. If that is the case, Green Bay should let him go seek it elsewhere with the cheaper options on this list that could provide similar production next season.

Ulrick John

NFL Experience: 4 years
FA Status: Unrestricted free agent
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $615,000
2017 Stats: 5 games played

Ulrick John came in relief a couple times during the regular season (and lined up at tight end for a few snaps), and played well the more time he got on the field.

Coming over from the Arizona Cardinals practice squad, John helped with depth on the Packers line. From game-to-game it felt like someone new had to take snaps at any line position on offense so there was plenty of opportunity to show value.

John is just 25 years old, but he’s a career practice squad player. With stints on the Colts, Dolphins and Cardinals practice squads, I see the Packers letting John walk to create roster space and see what’s available in the draft.

Justin McCray

NFL Experience: 1 year
FA Status: Exclusive-rights free agent
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $465,000
2017 Stats: 13 games played, 6 sacks allowed

McCray was a pleasant surprise playing in relief after he fought to make the 53-man roster at the beginning of the season. While nothing special showed up on the eye-test, he had some good moments and at least provided some stability.

McCray spent time playing at both guard positions and right tackle, eventually being the go-to player there once Bulaga was lost for the season but before Jason Spriggs returned from IR. He should have a tender issued for him and would ultimately battle for a starting position if Bulaga takes a while to recover from a torn ACL or if Evans does not come back at right guard.

Lucas Patrick

NFL Experience: 1 year
FA Status: Exclusive-rights free agent
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $465,000
2017 Stats: 12 games played, 2 games started, 2 sacks allowed

McCray’s friend and fellow lineman, Lucas Patrick is another player that will be eligible to be tendered or offered a longer deal.

Also, like McCray, Patrick spent time filling in at guard. As we know, the Packers’ offensive line rotated heavily due to injuries and Patrick may have proved that he’s ready to provide the depth that the Packers need.

As much as it would be nice to have a solid five-man line that starts all 16 regular season games, having Patrick as insurance will be necessary next season.

Adam Pankey

NFL Experience: 1 year
FA Status: Exclusive-rights free agent
Expiring Contract: 1 year, $465,000
2017 Stats: 1 game played, 0 starts

Pankey is another practice squad call up, but he only saw action in one regular season game. A 6’5,” 315 pound linemen out of West Virginia, he ultimately settled in at guard after playing some tackle in the preseason. He didn’t provide as much versatility at McCray and Patrick, but he may just need some time with the team to refine his skills.

If it wasn’t for all the injuries on the Packers offensive line, Pankey would have stayed on the practice squad all season. Pankey is the most likely candidate to be allowed to seek opportunities elsewhere.

You can’t keep everyone, and Pankey should be the odd man out as the Packers use his spot to take a flier on someone who might contribute more.