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Packers 2021 Roster Preview: Versatile offensive line depends on Bakhtiari’s return

When Bakhtiari returns from injury will influence roster decisions along the offensive line.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Green Bay Packers Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers report for training camp on July 27th, with the team’s first practice coming the next day. In the week leading up to camp, Acme Packing Company will break down the Packers’ 90-man roster and give our predictions for who will make the initial 53 at the end of camp. Seven APC contributors submitted their 53-man predictions, and we have combined those picks into our annual consolidated prediction.

It all depends on one player.

In this case we are actually not talking about Aaron Rodgers but rather David Bakhtiari.

How the Packers’ offensive line depth chart will look for 2021 largely hinges on where Bakhtiari is in his rehabilitation from a torn ACL suffered late last season. Some seem to assume he will be ready for Week 1 but if he is not, that could mean he will begin the year on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list. If that’s the route Green Bay goes down, Bakhtiari is out for the first six weeks of the season.

That situation is why the Packers have loaded up on offensive linemen for the initial 90-man roster. The depth along the line has been a huge asset in the first two years under head coach Matt LaFleur and they will be looking to sustain that in 2021.

Here’s our breakdown of the 2021 offensive line.

Offensive Linemen on the 90 man roster

LT David Bakhtiari

NFL Experience: 9th season
2021 cap hit: $10.967 million

Simply put, Bakhtiari is the best tackle in the NFL when he is healthy. Protecting the blindside of an improvisational quarterback like Rodgers is no easy task but Bakhtiari has excelled at it for several years.

The Packers made a rare move by giving him a third contract, something they usually don’t do for offensive linemen but Bakhtiari’s performance made it a common sense move.

After tearing his ACL late in the season, his availability for Week 1 is in question and what they ultimately do with him will set the path for who makes the roster heading into the season opener.

T/G Billy Turner

NFL Experience: 8th season
2021 Cap Hit: $4.846 million

Turner was one of the less hyped members of the 2019 free agency class and his versatility continues to be critical for this unit.

Replacing a legend like Bryan Bulaga isn’t easy but Turner did well at right tackle in 2020 after playing guard in his first season with the team. Turner also spent time at left tackle when Bakhtiari missed a few games with injuries. Once again, versatility saved the Packers.

Turner should be the incumbent starter again at right tackle but he also could move depending again on what happens with Bakhtiari. Don’t be surprised if he starts on the left side early in the season while Bakh works his way back from his torn ACL.

G Lucas Patrick

NFL Experience: 5th season
2021 Cap Hit: $2.092 million

G Elgton Jenkins

NFL Experience: 3rd season
2021 Cap Hit: $1.850 million

GM Brian Gutekunst hit the jackpot when he drafted Jenkins in the second round of the 2019 draft. He has not only been rock solid at left guard but he’s played both tackle positions and center as well. He’s done it all.

There has been discussion about moving him outside in the wake of Bakhtiari’s injury and if that’s the case, there’s little doubt he would be successful there too. Jenkins has been a jack of all trades and is easily the most valuable lineman to the Packers behind Bakhtiari over the last few years. He might even be equal in terms of importance.

T/G Ben Braden

NFL Experience: 2nd season
2021 Cap Hit: $850k

A surprising sight during OTAs was Braden taking some reps with the first-team offensive line at left tackle, though he did so while Jenkins and Turner were not practicing. Still, Braden has turned a career so far spent on and off practice squads into a real shot at a 53-man roster spot. Like so many other players on this unit, he can play multiple positions, and he was called up for a total of six games in 2021, including both postseason contests.

OT Yosh Nijman

NFL Experience: 2nd season
2021 Cap Hit: $850k

A physical marvel, Nijman is probably on his last chance in Green Bay. He really only has one position — left tackle — and if he cannot take a step forward and really compete for a starting job in Bakhtiari’s absence, there isn’t much of a place for him on the 53.

G Jon Runyan, Jr.

NFL Experience: 2nd season
2021 Cap Hit: $824k

The first of three sixth-round picks in 2020, Runyan is the prototypical Packers interior line selection — a tremendous athlete who played left tackle in college and who moved inside as a rookie. And he played very well in a few difficult spots, including in week one when he came on for significant playing time late and held up well against the Vikings’ defensive line. Look for Runyan to compete for a starting job at guard, particularly if the team needs Jenkins elsewhere to start the season.

C Jake Hanson

NFL Experience: 1st season
2021 Cap Hit: $660k

Another one-trick pony, Hanson is a center, and that’s about it. Last year he was a late cut in training camp but came back on the practice squad.

G Zack Johnson

NFL Experience: 1st season
2021 Cap Hit: $660k

An undrafted free agent signing a year ago, Johnson also spent his rookie season on the practice squad but did not get called up for any game action.

G Simon Stepaniak

NFL Experience: 1st season
2021 Cap Hit: $818k

Stepaniak missed most of his rookie year on the Non-Football Injury list, having suffered a torn ACL late in his senior season in college. The Packers did allow him to practice late in 2020, however, suggesting that they see a future for him on the team, likely as a reserve guard.

C Josh Myers

NFL experience: Rookie (2nd-round draft pick)
2021 Cap Hit: $1.015 million

Losing Corey Linsley in free agency is disappointing, but not unexpected. Much like they hit the jackpot with Jenkins two years ago in the second round, the Packers are hoping they did the same with Myers this year.

Barring a setback in camp, Myers is most likely the opening day center and he has all the tools to keep the role long term.

T/G Royce Newman

NFL Experience: Rookie (4th-round draft pick)
2021 Cap Hit: $785k

The second of three draft picks on the offensive line is Newman, who drew impressive praise from his position coaches during spring practices. Newman played a significant amount of right tackle (his college position), including lining up with the starters in a few occasions. Whether he stays outside or moves to guard will likely be determined in camp, but he has similar versatility to Turner in that way.

T/G Cole Van Lanen

NFL Experience: Rookie (6th-round draft pick)
2021 Cap Hit: $698k

Van Lanen is this year’s Runyan: a sixth-round pick with great athletic testing numbers who played left tackle in college but who will probably move inside to guard in the NFL. Hopefully his play backs up his story, which is a great one for a local Green Bay kid who went to Bay Port High School.

G Jacob Capra

NFL Experience: Rookie (UDFA)
2021 Cap Hit: $662k

Capra played with Hanson at Oregon for a few years, playing a backup role before transferring to San Diego State and getting a chance to start. There, he played both guard and tackle while earning his master’s degree.

OL Coy Cronk

NFL Experience: Rookie (UDFA)
2021 Cap Hit: $662k

A sleeper for a roster spot this summer, Cronk started his college career at Indiana before transferring to Iowa amid some injuries. He played with Stepaniak as the Hoosiers’ left tackle for four years before moving to right tackle in Iowa City.

G Jon Dietzen

NFL Experience: Rookie (UDFA)
2021 Cap Hit: $662k

Dietzen, another Wisconsin native and former Badger, gets to stick with Van Lanen for a while longer. He played both tackle and guard at UW, but settled in on the interior and should get some preseason reps there this August.


APC 53-man roster prediction

Starters

LT: Billy Turner
LG: Jon Runyan, Jr.
C: Josh Myers
RG: Lucas Patrick
RT: Elgton Jenkins

Backups

Ben Braden
Royce Newman
Simon Stepaniak
Cole Van Lanen

Physically Unable to Perform list: David Bakhtiari

APC was split on whether or not the Packers will keep Bakhtiari on the 53 to start the season. There was one vote for him starting in week one and a few for him starting on the 53 but going on injured reserve shortly thereafter, which would allow him to return after about three weeks. Ultimately, however, the most votes came in for Bakh starting the season on the PUP list, which would keep him out for the team’s first six games.

With that decision made, that leaves us moving Turner to left tackle and Jenkins to right tackle, positions both players played for some time in 2020. Runyan gets the nod in Jenkins’ place, while Myers locks down the center job in his rookie camp.

Down the roster, however, we focus heavily on versatility once again. With Patrick and Jenkins able to move inside to center, three of the four backups we keep around have tackle/guard versatility so the Packers can play with positions a bit and always maintain a solid line.