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Rick Wagner gives the Packers offensive line insurance next season, and for 2021 free agency

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Wagner may start at right tackle next season, but he also gives the Packers insurance leading up to an uncertain 2021 offseason with free agents on the offensive line.

Detroit Lions v Green Bay Packers Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

With the reported addition of Rick Wagner on Monday, the Green Bay Packers helped to stabilize a right tackle position in flux this offseason. Interestingly, the West Allis native Wagner’s homecoming back to Wisconsin also signaled the near-certain departure of Bryan Bulaga after 10 years in Green Bay. However, while Wagner is expected to slide into the starting role Bulaga once occupied in 2020, his presence on the team also gives the Packers flexibility after next season.

The contract itself should be friendly to Green Bay, which appears to lock in a veteran right tackle for two-years and $11 million. If Wagner can return to form after a down 2019 season, the deal will be a steal for the Packers, who also had to weigh a potential $10 million annual salary for Bulaga. Even if the Packers re-sign Jared Veldheer for veteran depth, the team should be able to secure two experienced tackles in the short-term for the same yearly price as, or less than, the oft-injured Bulaga.

Perhaps more comforting about Wagner joining the Packers’ offensive line is the security he will provide heading into the 2021 offseason. The period will be one in which Green Bay may be forced to make a decision on two notable names unless extensions can be worked out sooner. Center Corey Linsley will be on the open market after next season and should be in line for a lucrative deal after being a reliable cog in the middle of the offensive line. Likewise, left tackle David Bakhtiari is also heading into a contract season and should command a hefty price tag despite turning 29 years old in September. If the Packers choose not to extend Bakhtiari, Wagner, on a two-year deal, could be a potential fill-in on the left side while the team develops a younger candidate.

Even if Wagner only starts on the right side for Green Bay, it helps the Packers maintain a certain level of status quo along the offensive line in year one. The Packers can continue to search for a capable long-term answer in the 2020 NFL Draft without the desperation that comes without having a suitable fall-back option on the roster. It also keeps Billy Turner at right guard, keeping four of the Packers’ five starters in place and saving Green Bay from taking a significant risk on Turner’s performance after a shift back to tackle.

While Wagner is not a flashy signing this offseason, he is a known commodity and gives the Packers flexibility for the upcoming season. And maybe more importantly, he gives the team insurance in the event of a tumultuous 2021 offseason of turnover.