As far as needs go, the Green Bay Packers have relatively few. Don’t get me wrong, all teams need more good players, but as far as glaring weaknesses, the Packers don’t have many.
Of course there is a need at inside linebacker. You could also argue that defensive line and tight end are other positions of need for Green Bay. But one position that some might not consider a need that very well could be one in the near future, is offensive line.
Right now, the Packers are pretty set along the offensive line. They have all five of their starters back from a season ago, as well as their top two backups. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that four of those players are going to be unrestricted free agents after this season. Josh Sitton, J.T. Lang, David Bahktiari and J.C. Tretter all have expiring contracts and as much as Green Bay might want all of them back beyond 2016, it seems unlikely to happen.
That’s why it’s important for the Packers to address the position in the 2016 NFL draft.
Over the course of his career, Ted Thompson has done a pretty good of addressing positions before they become needs and with more than half of his starters on the offensive front headed to free agency, it’d be a good idea to do it again.
I do believe that the Packers will keep at least two or three of the guys headed for free agency. I see keeping Sitton as a strong possibility, unless the Packers are weary of his injury history. But he’s a three-time Pro Bowler and a premiere guard.
Lang is another that’s on the fence. He has played well and is an above average starter, but it may be difficult to give out two big contracts to Sitton and Lang. And on top of that, left tackles never come cheap, which means Bahktiari could command a heavy price tag.
By no means in the former fourth-round pick an elite tackle, but he’s a solid pass protector and he’s a decent starter. And truthfully, it’s hard to find even a reliable starter at left tackle in the NFL and players that aren’t as good as he is, have gotten paid handsomely. Depending how he plays this season, it could take around $10 million annually to keep him in Green Bay.
Tretter is another interesting player. He was set to be the starting center before the 2014 season, but an injury in a preseason game cost him a big chunk of the season and by the time he returned, Corey Linsley had taken his job.
However, he had some good moments last season. He started a number of games, including one at left tackle against the Redskins in the playoffs and not surprisingly since he played left tackle in college, he held his own. He could easily start at guard or center for the Packers and many other teams and is also valuable as a swing tackle, someone who can backup both tackle spots.
So as you can see, the Packers are set for this season. They have talent and depth along the offensive line and a solid starter at every position. Yet, if things don’t work out and contracts don’t get done, there could be some scary unknowns on the front five in 2017 and I don’t think that’s something you want when you have a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, who you are paying more than $20 million a year.
This isn’t to say the Packers need to add an offensive tackle in the first or even the second round. But they do need to address the offensive line and since they own seven picks in the first four rounds, I’d expect them to do it by the end round four, a round in which the Packers will have three picks, two of them compensatory, which means they can’t be traded.
It pays be ahead of the game in the NFL and Thompson has done well at that throughout his career. With the future of the offensive line in flux, it would behoove him to do it once again in the draft later this month.