In what is increasingly looking more and more like the end of an era for the Green Bay Packers, general manager Brian Gutekunst has some tough decisions to face regarding some of the team’s biggest stars, including David Bakhtiari.
Kristopher Knox of Bleacher Report suggested the Packers “must at least consider” releasing Bakhtiari, a five-time All-Pro, if quarterback Aaron Rodgers does not return to Green Bay for his 19th season.
“Keeping Bakhtiari makes sense if Rodgers is committed to 2023 and beyond,” Knox wrote in an opinion piece published January 30. “However, with the quarterback’s future uncertain, cutting Bakhtiari is something Green Bay must at least consider. … General manager Brian Gutekunst will likely approach Bakhtiari with a restructuring offer first, but moving on altogether may be a move the Packers ultimately have to make — an easier one to swallow if Rodgers’ time in Green Bay is over.”
The Packers are leaning toward ushering in the next era in Green Bay by trading away Rodgers, according to a January 29 story by ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
If Rodgers is traded, the Packers could embrace a rebuild by offloading or restructuring some of their more expensive contracts, Knox wrote, mentioning running back Aaron Jones and edge rusher Preston Smith as other players who could on the Packers’ chopping block.
Can David Bakhtiari Keep Playing at a High Level?
It’s been a rough couple of years for Bakhtiari, but when on the field, the 31-year-old has looked every bit like one of the best left tackles in the NFL.
After five straight All-Pro selections, Bakhtiari suffered a major blow when he suffered a torn ACL on December 31 in 2020. What was once expected to be a 9- to 12-month recovery was instead a multiple-year process for Bakhtiari to recover. The star left tackle even missed time this season, nearly two years later, due to complications from the injury.
Just when Bakhtiari was starting to get healthy, an emergency appendectomy cost him multiple weeks in the middle of the 2022 season. Despite that injury, Bakhtiari showed that he could consistently play when healthy this season, and at a high level. According to Pro Football Focus, Bakhtiari posted the sixth-best pass blocking grade in the NFL among offensive tackles this season with an 87.8 grade.
The veteran left tackle will be 32 years old next season. Still, he proved he can still play — when he’s healthy.
“I still have a lot to play for,” Bakhtiari said, according to January 9 story by Sports Illustrated’s Bill Huber. “I have things that I want to do both collectively for the club and personally for myself, but I understand it is, No. 1, at the end of the day, a business. I have nothing but the utmost respect for Gutey. He’s been nothing but great to me since the moment I walked in these doors since 2013, so I expect anything that comes that way, hopefully if we do cross the negative bridge that we have a conversation that happens. But that’s life. I have no ill-will but, first and foremost, I don’t expect that but, on the same end, I totally respect what happens.”
Will Aaron Rodgers Return in 2023?
Bakhtiari’s future is up in the air, but his time in Green Bay could coincide with whatever happens to the team’s future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.
While Rodgers has yet to make a decision on his future, and retirement is still on the table, speculation about a potential trade has run rampant on the internet. From chaotic trade proposals involving Dak Prescott to more reasonable ones with the New York Jets, anyone and everyone is wondering where Rodgers might be traded this offseason.
The financial component could make a trade difficult for Rodgers. The Packers would incur $40 million in dead cap space by trading away Rodgers, but would also clear his contract off of the books for 2024 and 2025. Meanwhile, whichever team trades for Rodgers would have to be able to afford his massive contract for the next few years.