How Rick Wagner Fits with the Green Bay Packers
Many former Wisconsin Badgers found (either reportedly or officially) new homes in the NFL last week during the first wave of free agency signings.
One of those inking a new deal was offensive lineman Rick Wagner, who signed with his home-state Green Bay Packers on March 17. It appears the former UW walk-on turned NFL starting tackle will be the replacement for Bryan Bulaga on the right side of the line.
A fifth-round selection by the Baltimore Ravens in the 2013 NFL Draft, Wagner has played in 102 career games with 87 starts (according to NFL.com's stats). Last season, he started 12 games for the Lions. On March 13, the NFC North organization announced that they released the seven-year NFL veteran.
Wagner now joins former Badgers Jared Abbrederis, Lance Kendricks, Vince Biegel, Mark Tauscher and Don Davey, among others, who have played for the historic NFL franchise.
What does this signing mean for the green and gold in terms of fit and the positives and negatives of the move? AllBadgers.com caught up with PackerCentral's Bill Huber on Thursday morning for a couple of quick questions about what's next for Wagner with Aaron Rodgers and the Pack.
The Packers signed Wagner, and that set the table for Bryan Bulaga moving on to the Los Angeles Chargers. Do you feel the right tackle spot for Wagner is his to lose, or do you feel there will be competition at that particular position either via draft or current roster member?
Huber: I’d say it’s his job to lose, with the caveat that this is an excellent draft class of offensive tackles and the Packers could be tempted if one falls into range at No. 30. Regardless of the draft pick, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to wipe out most, if not all, of the offseason practices. That’s really going to put this year’s rookie class behind the eight-ball, which will only amplify Wagner’s wealth of experience. There’s nobody on the roster who is good enough to challenge Wagner.
In your eyes, what are some of the positives of Wagner that could benefit the Packers' offense in its second season under Matt LaFleur. On the flip side, where do you see potential areas of concern?
Huber: Frankly, what should be a concern is Wagner’s fairly mediocre play over the years. I get it, Bulaga was hurt. However, when he was healthy, he was fantastic. So, that was the trade-off. Do you pay Bulaga top dollar, knowing he might not make it through the season? So, I understand the decision to let him go to the Chargers. That being said, right tackle is a critical position. This isn’t the old days when the left tackle was charged with blocking the No. 1 pass rusher. Look at how last season started, with Bulaga facing Chicago’s Khalil Mack, Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter, Denver’s Von Miller and Dallas’ DeMarcus Lawrence in the first five games. With Detroit, Wagner was in the bottom half of the league’s offensive tackles in ProFootballFocus.com’s pass-blocking metric.