GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers might go into the 2020 season with a new starting right tackle.
According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports, the “conservative market” for Bryan Bulaga when the free-agent negotiating period begins on Monday is $12 million per season. For a team with a limited amount of cap space and a general reluctance to re-sign aging offensive linemen, the odds don't appear to favor Bulaga's return.
Regardless, the Packers face a difficult decision regarding their starter for most of the past 10 seasons. Bulaga is a tremendous player coming off arguably the best season of his career.
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There is a compelling case to re-sign Bulaga. He is coming off one of his best seasons – and critically so, since his season started with Chicago’s Khalil Mack, Minnesota’s Danielle Hunter and Denver’s Von Miller and never got much easier. In today’s NFL, a right tackle arguably is just as important as the left tackle. Bulaga was up to the task most weeks. In 2019, 57 offensive tackles played at least half of the snaps. Of that group, Bulaga ranked 17th in ProFootballFocus.com’s pass-blocking efficiency, which measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-rushing snap. According to Sports Info Solutions, he had three blown blocks on running plays, a blown-block rate of 0.9 percent that ranked 14th among tackles.
“It would be, to me, really cool to start and finish my career in the same spot,” he told the “Wilde and Tausch” radio show recently. “I think that would be awesome. There’s no doubt about that. As I’ve told you guys many times, I grew up in Green Bay, essentially – having kids, getting married, a lot of ups and downs. A lot of great things happened in my 10 years in Green Bay and there’d be nothing better than to finish my career out as a Green Bay Packer.”
The case to let Bulaga go is equally compelling. Bulaga has battled back from some big injuries – a hip in 2012 and ACLs in 2013 and 2017 – to provide years’ worth of quality play. Bulaga will turn 31 just after the start of free agency. With age and injury history, can Bulaga be counted on to play up to his contract?
If Bulaga departs, there would be a huge void at right tackle. The Packers could fill that void by re-signing Jared Veldheer, a late-season addition after he came out of retirement. He provided stellar play when Bulaga dropped out of the Week 17 game with a concussion and missed the divisional playoff game due to illness. Veldheer wants to play again in 2020.
Video: Free-agent offensive tackles