One of the biggest questions that the Green Bay Packers have going into the 2023 season is if left tackle David Bakhtiari can stay on the field for 17 games. Since his 2020 ACL tear, Bakhtiari — who had just signed a four-year, $92 million extension — has only played in 12 games with 11 of those coming in 2022.
Last year, a major obstacle for Bakhtiari was games that were played on turf. The blindside tackle has become an advocate for playing on grass surfaces over the years, going as far as contributing to a conversation on the topic in a video for Pennington — a grass seed company — and The Players’ Tribune.
The Grass vs Turf debate has gone on for years and I’m weighing in on the side of grass. Check out my thoughts and beliefs as we discuss this comparison with @pennington and @playerstribune. #PenningtonPartner pic.twitter.com/Ljv1jsH49g— David Bakhtiari (@DavidBakhtiari) April 27, 2023
The 2022 Packers played four games on turf surfaces. This included the season opener against the Minnesota Vikings. At the time, Bakhtiari had taken most of the snaps at left tackle leading up to Week 1 and head coach Matt LaFleur opted for a “no comment” type of answer on the subject of Bakhtiari being held out of the contest.
Bakhtiari’s next opportunity on turf came in London against the New York Giants, where he played only 40 percent of the offense’s total snaps as he rotated in and out of the lineup with Yosh Nijman — now the team’s preferred right tackle. He finally ended up playing a full game on turf against the Buffalo Bills in Week 8, but a week later only played the first half against the Detroit Lions — the final turf game on the Packers’ 2022 slate.
This year, Bakhtiari will have five shots to play a full game on fake grass:
- Week 2: @ Atlanta Falcons
- Week 12: @ Detroit Lions
- Week 14: @ New York Giants
- Week 16: @ Carolina Panthers
- Week 17: @ Minnesota Vikings
Interestingly enough, the Packers only play one game on turf before the trade deadline. That’s significant, as a trade of the left tackle might be on the horizon for the rebuilding (or reloading) team. In 2024, Bakhtiari will command a cap hit of over $40 million, but a team trading for him in 2023 would only have to pay him around $22 million for two years of service — an absolute steal on today’s left tackle market. Post-June 1, when Bakhtiari’s dead cap is allowed to be spread over both the 2023 and 2024 seasons for Green Bay’s cap accounting, a trade begins to be on the table.
How Bakhtiari handles Atlanta’s turf in Week 2 could drastically alter his potential trade market, so keep that game highlighted on the calendar this year. If he’s still on the Packers’ roster for the late-season stretch, he’ll have another major hurdle to overcome: four turf games in a six-week stretch, which starts off with a short week at Detroit on Thanksgiving.