While nobody was celebrating in the Packers’ locker room after their flop in yet another the NFC Championship, a large number of them were left wondering if they had played their final season with Green Bay.
The Packers have 21 impending free agents on their roster heading into the 2020 offseason with several starters, including kicker Mason Crosby and veteran cornerback Tramon Williams, among them. While the Packers will expectedly sign some of them, there is also a good chance at least one of their well-known names — maybe more — will depart in free agency.
Among the most notable? Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga. And the 10-year veteran didn’t have much reassurance to offer about his future with the Packers following Sunday’s 37-20 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s been home, started a family, pretty much became a real adult in Green Bay,” Bulaga said, via The Athletic’s Matt Schneidman. “Bought my first house, got married, had kids. It’s been fantastic. I’m not sure if this is it or not, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”
Bulaga started all 16 games of the regular season for just the second time being drafted Iowa — as the internet will never let us forget — with the 23rd overall pick in 2010. The veteran was hardly free of injuries, though, as he exited two different games with injuries and did not play in last Sunday’s divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. It also doesn’t help that Bulaga is expected to fetch a high price on the market as one of the best offensive tackles available this offseason.
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Could Packers Afford to Re-Sign Bulaga?
According to Spotrac’s calculated market value, Bulaga could be in line to earn an annual average of $10.1 million in his next contract based on a comparison of other similar offensive tackles. While it would be a good chunk of change, the Packers could certainly afford to pay him with a salary cap of about $29.4 million.
The real question is whether the Packers are interested in bringing back the injury-prone 30-year-old — who will be 31 before offseason OTAs roll around in the spring.
Bulaga was an essential piece coming into 2019 for a number of reasons, starting with the fact that his veteran presence worked in tandem with All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari to stabilize the Packers offensive line while newcomers were worked into place. Without him, it is unlikely Green Bay would have rated as the best pass-blocking unit in the NFL during the regular season.
At the same time, those newcomers — Billy Turner and rookie Elgton Jenkins — are now staples for the Packers and illustrated just how effective the offseason can be when it comes to inserting new talent. While the open market might be a little thin on offensive tackles, what’s to say the Packers couldn’t repeat their success with Jenkins and draft another young, promising tackle to take the place of Bulaga for 2020?
If the Packers manage to acquire a tackle worth developing into a starter, they could potentially still keep around veteran Jared Veldheer, who was a late-season addition after he came out of retirement and might be more willing to ink a short-term, cost-friendly deal with the Packers for one more go. Of course, his intentions remain uncertain at the moment.