Packers Predicted to Ink Undrafted Free Agent to Monster Deal

Getty Head coach Matt LaFleur of the Green Bay Packers watches action during a preseason game against the New Orleans Saints at Lambeau Field on August 19, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

For the first time in 31 years the Green Bay Packers will start a season with a QB not named Aaron Rodgers or Brett Favre, and offensive line play will be paramount.

This year’s group will be headed by five-time All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, assuming he can remain healthy. Perhaps the next most important offensive lineman will be fourth-year utility man Yosua Nijman who has filled in gaps on both sides of the line at the tackle position during his young NFL career.

Nijman’s versatility makes him a valuable asset to the Green Bay offense even despite his status as at least one rung below elite at the tackle position. David DeChant of The Athletic argued in an article published on April 5 that Nijman is primed to cash in on that value next offseason at an annual contract number upwards of $20 million.

“Nijman is far from a household name, but he’s played left tackle (782 snaps) and right tackle (528) since 2020 at an above-average level. Those guys get paid, and paid big,” DeChant wrote. “He’s been best on the left, allowing three sacks and a 2.94 percent pressure rate, compared to five [sacks] and 4.36 [percent rate], respectively, on the right. A restricted free agent this offseason, Nijman received the second-round tender (worth $4.3 million) from the Packers. He could push for $17 million or more annually on his next deal.”

Nijman Has Played Every Game Since Joining Packers’ Roster

Gutey on Crosby3

GettyOffensive tackle Yosh Nijman of the Green Bay Packers blocks edge defender Robert Quinn, formerly of the Chicago Bears, during a game at Lambeau Field on September 18, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Nijman’s rise to the massive contract he’s projected to sign just a year from now is a relatively uncommon one in the hyper-competitive world of professional football.

The tackle joined the Packers in 2019 as an undrafted free agent out of Virginia Tech. He didn’t see a regular season snap until 2020, appearing in all 16 games for Green Bay during that campaign but never earning a start.

His reliability continued over the next two years, as Nijman played in all 17 contests both seasons. He started eight games in 2021 and 13 games in 2022. He is currently slotted as the starter at right tackle opposite Bakhtiari heading into the upcoming campaign.

Nijman Offers Packers Pass Blocking For QB Jordan Love

Jordan Love, Packers

GettyQuarterback Jordan Love of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass against the New Orleans Saints during a preseason game at Lambeau Field on August 19, 2022 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Nijman did not have a stellar year in 2022 based on advanced statistics, earning an overall player grade of 64.1 from Pro Football Focus (PFF), which was good enough to rank him 54th out of 81 players who qualified at the position. For context, Bakhtiari finished the year with a 79.8 player grade from PFF, slotting him 12th among qualifying offensive tackles.

That said, Nijman’s advanced numbers were hurt by a poor run blocking grade. His pass blocking, however, was well above average and bordering on exceptional with a grade of 74.4. The tackle has improved with each passing year, all of which have seen his role with the Packers and his importance to the organization grow as well. All of that should be amplified in 2023 as first-year starter and fourth-year quarterback Jordan Love takes the reins from Rodgers to lead Green Bay into a new era under center.

Should Bakhtiari stay healthy, Nijman will play next season at right tackle where he is less effective than on the left side, as DeChant pointed out. But Bakhtiari has just two years left on a sizable contract and will play next year at the age of 32. Nijman is only 27 years old and could be signing an extension next offseason not as the team’s long-term answer at right tackle, but rather the Packers’ eventual replacement for Bakhtiari on the left side, where Nijman has thrived.

If that proves to be the case and Nijman’s play continues on its current upward trajectory, the tackle will prove a bargain for Green Bay at $17 million per season.

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