If the Green Bay Packers decide that they want another veteran right tackle on their 2022 roster, they won’t be able to call Dennis Kelly.
Kelly, who started five games at right tackle for the Packers last season, signed a free agent contract May 10 with the Indianapolis Colts and will now compete for a starting job with the Colts.
The Packers signed Kelly at the beginning of last year’s training camp while All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari was working back from a torn ACL, but Kelly suffered a camp injury of his own and didn’t end up playing his first snaps until December. After coming off the bench against the Chicago Bears in Week 14, Kelly served as the Packers’ starting right tackle for the final four games of the regular season, giving up just one sack and four pressures on 304 snaps.
Kelly, 32, had a miserable showing in the Packers’ divisional-round playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers, allowing one sack, three hurries and five pressures on Aaron Rodgers as the Packers fell 13-10 to end their season.
With Kelly’s signing, Packer free agents who remain unsigned are cornerback Kevin King, defensive lineman Tyler Lancaster, safety Henry Black and outside linebacker Chauncey Rivers. Whitney Mercilus is also unsigned, but he announced on April 6 his retirement after a 10-year career.
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Who Will Be Packers’ Starting RT in 2022?
The Packers need a new plan at right tackle, and not just because Kelly has landed with the Colts because the team also moved on from three-year starting right tackle Billy Turner (who has since signed with the Denver Broncos), leaving the 2022 roster with two fewer veterans to consider for the position next season.
Still, there is plenty of reason to think they could solve their issue at right tackle without looking for outside help. Yosh Nijman — who started eight games at left tackle in 2021 — is a prime candidate to compete for the starting job on the right side. Nijman gave up just three sacks over 589 snaps at left tackle in 2021 — two of which came in the same game (a Week 5 win against the Cincinnati Bengals) — and held his own against some elite pass rushers, including Nick Bosa in Week 3 when he was forced to step in for Elgton Jenkins.
Speaking of Jenkins, he is also a candidate for the right tackle job in 2022. Though he was initially a guard for the Packers as a rookie, starting 14 games in 2019, he proved in his second and third seasons that he is just as capable of playing center or either of the two tackle spots. In 2020, Jenkins went to the Pro Bowl. The one hangup with him is that he suffered a torn ACL in late November last year and might not be fully recovered by the time the 2022 season opens.
The Packers also drafted two more tackles — third-rounder Sean Rhyan and seventh-round Rasheed Walker — last month and will surely be looking for them to compete along with undrafted rookies Jahmir Johnson and Caleb Jones.