The 30-year-old offensive tackle just finished up his 10th season with the Packers and is set to become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year begins on March 18, but Bulaga recently revealed there have been no talks between his representation and the Packers about the possibility of signing him to a new contract for 2020 and beyond.
“There’s been nothing. There’s been no talk,” Bulaga said recently via The Athletic’s Jason Wilde. “It could be as it gets closer to free agency maybe those talks begin and things maybe start to get worked out. We’ll see. I was hoping that I could end my career in Green Bay. Hopefully, talks between the Packers and my representation go really well. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.”
Bulaga started all 16 games for just the second time in his career last season and is the most experienced member of an offensive line that ranked best in the league at pass-blocking in 2019, but the Packers have also been reluctant to give third contracts to veteran linemen in the past. Most recently, they parted ways with Pro Bowl guards Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang, who each then signed with an NFC North rival but only played a few more seasons injuries guided them into retirement.
“Speaking with good friends of mine — T.J. and Sitton — they said you have to do what’s best for yourself and your family. And at the time, that’s what happened with those guys,” Bulaga said. “I still feel like I’m going to be able to go out and play my best football for a while still. I think I went out this year and showed that I can still play at a high level, so it’s going to be one of those things where we weigh the pros and cons of every situation and make a good decision that’s best for us.”
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Packers’ Situation With Bulaga is Tricky
Historically, the Packers have been inclined to move on from aging offensive linemen they hit this point in their career, but there are more complications when it comes to Bulaga.
Bulaga has been projected to make roughly $10 million per season on his next contract and would likely eat up a sizable chunk of the Packers’ spendable cap if re-signed. It is possible he would take a discounted rate or sign something with cap flexibility that doesn’t break the bank; though, no ongoing talks between the two sides leaves the potential of a new deal somewhat unknown.
If Bulaga leaves, the Packers would have a tough time replacing him with their current personnel. One scenario beat writers have tossed around is the possibility of 2019 All-Rookie guard Elgton Jenkins sliding over to play tackle while promoting backup guard Lucas Patrick, who signed a two-year extension, to start in Jenkins’ place. It would help the Packers avoid spending big in free agency, but it would also severely deplete their reserves — a necessity for a sturdy offensive line.
The Packers could potentially re-sign veteran tackle Jared Veldheer for less money to keep Patrick situated as a versatile depth piece, but he is both older (32) and has missed about as much time with injuries as Bulaga. They could also take the draft route again, as last year’s third-round pick yielded them an instant starter in Jenkins. Either way, the Packers would be taking a gamble.
“It’s tough to think about. But obviously, I think anyone that knows me and knows my mindset about this, everyone knows that I would love to be back with the Green Bay Packers. I don’t think anyone questions that,” Bulaga said, via Wilde and ESPN Wisconsin. “It would be, to me, really cool to start and finish my career in the same spot.”