Each winter, Acme Packing Company breaks down the Green Bay Packers’ roster from the previous year by position to examine the team’s performance and needs in the offseason. Today we continue this series by looking at the offensive line.
In 2018, the Packers offensive line was marred by injuries and a lack of depth, and it clearly needed retooling. Brian Gutekunst recognized that need and made some additions that, I would say, shaped the offense in a way that made 2019 successful.
Gutekunst used every viable way to improve the offensive line. He added Elgton Jenkins via the draft, spent big money on Billy Turner and hit the waiver wire to acquire Jared Veldheer.
How acquired: 2nd round draft pick (#44 overall)
Contract: 4 years, $6.782 million, including $2.953M signing bonus
I don’t think I was the only one who questioned the pick of Jenkins in the 2nd round, especially when weapons like AJ Brown, Mecole Hardman and DK Metcalf were available. However, that doubt was washed away after Lane Taylor was lost for the season with a biceps injury.
Jenkins stepped in immediately and played better than Taylor had the past few seasons. While Taylor was more known for his run blocking, Jenkins quickly excelled at both run blocking and pass blocking. He was ranked number eight in the league in Pass Block Win Rate for guards by ESPN. Not bad for a rookie.
Jenkins should continue to improve over the next few seasons and end up being a steal for the Packers. There are a lot of free agent questions in the next couple years but it’s safe to say that Jenkins should be a major part of the offensive line for the future.
How acquired: Signed as unrestricted free agent
Contract: 4 years $28 million, with $9M signing bonus and incentives up to $29.5 million
Billy Turner was an interesting signing when the news broke. Similar to Jenkins, I wasn’t quite sure what the Packers were getting. After doing a little research, he seemed like a nice pickup. “Versatile with being able to play guard and tackle, and insurance in case Bryan Bulaga went down with another injury.” were my first thoughts. However, the steep price tag made me wonder if he could step in and be a major contributor.
As the season went on, my thoughts were still going back and forth with Turner. Then I had a slight moment of clarity. David Bakhtairi is an All-Pro, Corey Linsley is one of the best centers in the NFL, Elgton Jenkins is a stud rookie and Bryan Bulaga is playing great at an underrated level.
Turner was playing very well but was being overshadowed by his teammates. He did struggle at times but over the course of the season he was solid in both run and pass blocking. He got better as the season went on and he avoided the injury bug. You can’t really ask for anything more from him.
The best part is that Turner looks to be a very solid piece of the puzzle up front for the next several years. Free agency might bring some changes in the next few years but Billy Turner will have a place on the Packers’ offensive line.
How acquired: Claimed off waivers from the New England Patriots
Contract: One year, $2.75 million ($519k earned)
Jared Veldheer might have been one of the best acquisitions of the year. The Packers needed some depth after a slight scare with an injury to Bryan Bulaga, and Veldheer fell into Brian Gutekunst’s lap.
Veldheer signed with the Patriots before the season and retired soon after. He thought his body wasn’t able to handle the rigors of the NFL soon after he signed. At the end of November, the Patriots released him and Gutekunst took a chance on him. Veldheer passed his physical and was soon implemented as the top backup at the tackle position.
While Bulaga never missed a regular season game, Veldheer became a valuable insurance policy for the small injuries that would happen here and there. He really became valuable stepping in for Bulaga against the Lions in week 17 and when he was declared out for the playoff game against Seattle.
Bulaga was excellent throughout the year and missing him in the biggest game, at the time, might have been an issue. However, Veldheer stepped in and filled Bulaga’s shoes perfectly. There wasn’t much of a difference in play and the Packers won the game to move onto the NFC Championship.
That alone made the claim worth it. Now, it will be interesting to see if Veldheer wants to keep playing and if the Packers want him back in 2020.