Packers Declared ‘Best Landing Spot’ for Former 1st-Round Pick

Mekhi Becton Green Bay Packers News NFL Free Agency Landing Spot

Getty Former Jets offensive tackle and first-round pick Mekhi Becton.

The Green Bay Packers broke from their norms and uncharacteristically made a few big investments during 2024 NFL free agency, signing four-year contracts with running back Josh Jacobs and safety Xavier McKinney. There could still be a left tackle out there for them, though, in line with their usual spending practices.

Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger recently attempted to pair the 20 top remaining free agents with teams still trying to fill roster holes and floated the Packers as the “best landing spot” for former New York Jets left tackle and first-round pick Mekhi Becton.

Becton — the No. 11 overall pick in the 2020 draft — played a career-high 985 snaps for the Jets offense last season, a step in the right direction after knee injuries limited him to just 48 snaps combined over the previous two seasons. He can also play both tackle spots, which could appeal to the Packers as they search for a new swing tackle.

“The 6-foot-7 and 363-pounder looked leaner in training camp and performed admirably as a pass protector despite the revolving door of quarterbacks operating behind him,” Spielberger wrote on March 28. “He can be the lead blocker to the play side but often got caught up in the muck this past season when pull-blocking across the formation, getting his feet tangled and ending up on the ground.”

The Packers moved on from their two most experienced tackles over the past month, releasing five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari on March 11 and allowing Yosh Nijman to walk in free agency and sign with the Carolina Panthers on March 18. While Green Bay returns both of its 2023 starters — Rasheed Walker and Zach Tom — for next season, the Packers likely need more depth at the position to help protect Jordan Love.

Can Packers Afford to Take Risk on Mekhi Becton?

The Packers still have roughly $17 million in effective cap space when accounting for the money set aside to pay their 2024 rookie draft class. So, even if Becton is looking for an above-minimum contract, they have the means to pay him.

Is Becton actually worth signing, though?

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has a tendency to target lower-cost veterans who either have limited playing time or have recently struggled with injuries. He rolled the dice on linebackers Christian Kirksey and De’Vondre Campbell, the latter of whom ascended to an All-Pro level in 2021. He also sniped cornerback Rasul Douglas off the Arizona Cardinals’ practice squad and turned him into a clear starter, enough so that the Buffalo Bills were willing to trade a third-round pick for him this past season.

Becton might be a different story, though. He has no doubt struggled with injuries over the first four years of his career, but he also did not exactly play like a first-round talent for the Jets in 2023 despite being mostly healthy. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed 12 sacks — five more than any other Jet — on 644 pass-blocking snaps and committed more than twice as many penalties (18) as anyone else on the roster.

For the right price, the Packers may still feel like there is untapped potential in Becton, but do they really want to jump from one injury-troubled tackle to another? Unlikely.

Packers Can Fortify OL Without Signing Mekhi Becton

Even if the Packers sign a veteran tackle to their rotation, they are likely going to be looking to rebuild portions of their offensive line during the NFL draft next month.

The Packers are not only losing Bakhtiari and Nijman at tackle but also three-year starting guard Jon Runyan Jr., who signed a three-year, $30 million deal with the New York Giants in free agency. They also have legitimate questions to answer about center Josh Myers, who is entering a contract year and has been largely inconsistent for them.

Fortunately, the Packers hold 11 picks in the 2024 NFL draft, including five top-100 selections, which should allow them to find the necessary reinforcements.

Numerous mock drafts have the Packers selecting a new starter with their first-round pick at No. 25 overall. ESPN’s Matt Miller projected the Packers to take Oklahoma tackle Tyler Guyton in the first round of his seven-round mock, while NFL Network’s Lance Zierlein had them grabbing versatile Duke offensive lineman Graham Barton.

Nevertheless, the Packers could wait until the latter rounds to lean into their offensive line. They have had success over the past few decades finding quality starters for their line on Day 3 of the draft, including Bakhtiari (fourth round, 2013), Runyan (sixth, 2020) former All-Pro center Corey Linsley (fifth, 2014) and Tom (fourth, 2022).

However the Packers attack it, the draft likely presents better options than free agency.

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