GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a position-by-position
look at what the Green Bay Packers have and what they need.
We can revisit this process before the draft based on what – if anything – general manager Ted Thompson does in free agency.
Next up, offensive tackles:
2014 free agents: Marshall Newhouse.
The good: For the first time in coach Mike McCarthy’s tenure, the Packers might have options at tackle thanks to the emergence of David Bakhtiari, who started every game at left tackle as a rookie. Bakhtiari, a fourth-round-pick, softened the blow of losing Bryan Bulaga to a season-ending knee injury less than two weeks into training camp. Save for a bad game here and there (both San Francisco games and the Thanksgiving loss to Detroit), Bakhtiari performed perhaps better than expected and gave the Packers a reason to consider leaving him at left tackle and moving Bulaga back to the right side, where Don Barclay played most of last season. Although Barclay struggled more in pass protection, he’s a strong finisher in the running game and appears to be an ascending player.
The bad: Nearly three years after using a first-round pick on Derek Sherrod, the Packers still don’t know whether he can play. After missing the entire 2012 season while recovering from the broken leg he suffered Dec. 18, 2011, Sherrod spent most of the 2013 season on the physically unable to perform list before being activated late on Nov. 5. Although he was active for the final seven games plus playoffs, Sherrod took only six snaps on offense (all at right tackle) and otherwise played only special teams. At 6-foot-5 and 321 pounds, Sherrod is an imposing figure but uncertainty remains about his ability.
The money: When you have a fourth-round pick start as a rookie at the premier position on the offensive line, it helps your bottom line and your salary cap. If the Packers decide to stick with Bakhtiari for the long term, it means they’re still years away from having to do a big-money contract for that spot. While Bulaga and Sherrod were both first-round picks, meaning they were more expensive, both remain under their original rookie contracts. Both of their deals expire after the 2014 season (when Bulaga has a $3.829 million salary-cap charge and Sherrod has a $2.1 million cap charge). The Packers will almost certainly let Newhouse walk. After starting two seasons at left tackle, he was a backup last season.
Draft priority: Thompson has drafted a tackle prospect in each of the past eight drafts. Some end up moving inside to play guard, but the Packers like to draft players who are used to blocking the best pass-rushers who typically play on the outside. While this might be the deepest group of tackles Thompson has had since he took over in 2005, don’t be surprised to see him grab another one at some point, but probably not in the early rounds.