Ex-Packers Lineman Re-Signs After Stint With Patriots

Ben Braden Packers

Getty Jermaine Eluemunor #72 and Ben Braden #65 of the New England Patriots arrive to Patriots Training camp at Gillette Stadium on August 26, 2020 in Foxborough, Massachusetts.

Ben Braden is back in the Midwest.

The former Michigan offensive guard was re-signed to the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad Wednesday after he spent two months with their reserves during the 2019 season. Braden also spent some of 2019 with the New York Jets and was most recently a member of the New England Patriots during summer roster competition.

According to Bill Huber of Sports Illustrated, Braden has been in Green Bay since last week going through COVID-19 testing procedures. He was one of several players who was brought in for a midweek workout in Week 6, a group that also included linebacker Alvin Jones Jr. — brother of star running back Aaron Jones.

A potential problem could be brewing for the Packers’ offensive line against the Houston Texans this week with All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari missing Wednesday’s first practice with an injury. The Packers have not given a clear update on his status since he bowed out of Week 6’s loss in the fourth quarter with a chest injury.

Bakhtiari hasn’t missed a start for the Packers since Week 5 of the 2017 season, but veteran backup Rick Wagner would be the first man up to replace him if he cannot play against the Texans. Wagner made one start at right tackle earlier in the season.

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Braden’s Active-Roster Experience is Limited

At 6-foot-6, 330 pounds, Braden adds another beefy offensive lineman to the Packers’ ranks, but things haven’t exactly taken for the ex-Wolverine during his three-plus years in the NFL. He toiled as a member of the Jets’ practice squad for his first two seasons before his first stint with the Packers and has only played in three total games.

The Packers do, however, already have one Michigan lineman on their roster in sixth-round rookie Jon Runyan Jr. and have found some quality frontmen from the Big Ten in recent years, including former right tackle Bryan Bulaga (Iowa), current center Corey Linsley (center) and the newcomer Wagner (Wisconsin). They also drafted Simon Stepaniak in the sixth round out of Indiana; though, the measure of his impact will have to wait until 2021 with him on the reserve/non-football injury list.

Braden is now one of three offensive linemen stashed on the Packers’ practice squad alongside undrafted rookie Zack Johnson and second-year tackle Ryan Pope.

No Bakhtiari Would Mean Sink or Swim for Wagner

The Packers have not yet made details public about Bakhtiari’s current injury, including the severity, so it would be difficult at this point to project whether he will play on Sunday. If he doesn’t, though, the Packers will likely look to Wagner to earn every penny of the free-agent contract he signed with them this offseason.

Wagner is currently playing on a two-year, $11 million deal with the Packers that will see him earn $2.25 million in base salary this season, which isn’t exactly a desirable price point for someone who has been predominantly a backup in 2020. He was once considered the presumptive replacement for Bulaga at right tackle, but both guards Billy Turner and Elgton Jenkins were given preference over him early in the year when possible.

Now, Wagner would seem to be the only sensible path forward if Bakhtiari cannot go. He has been a reliable member of the Packers’ rotation and was solid during his only start in Week 2, not to mention he has 87 other career starts on his resume from his time in both Detroit and Baltimore over the past seven years.

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