Not only will the Green Bay Packers have a new offensive line coach this season, but there will be some new faces as well. The reason for the new faces is pretty obvious, the Packers offensive line needs help. The Packers offensive line had it struggles this past season, and that’s putting it mildly. While Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has two solid pieces, starting left tackle David Bakhtiari and center Corey Linsley, to build around, there are still holes that need to be filled. Gutekunst and his staff no doubt will look to the draft for help, but they might also test the free agent market to see what is available. There are several possible free agent options for the Green Bay Packers offensive line to look at this off-season.
The Packers face questions at the starting right guard and starting right tackle position. But the Packers offensive line also needs depth behind the starters they do have. But first, they will need to deal with the right side of their offensive line.
Last season, the Packers started a trio of players at the right guard position. Justin McCray, Lucas Patrick, and veteran Byron Bell all saw time at the position. All three share one thing in common regarding their play from 2018. They all failed to get the job done on a consistent basis.
Starting left guard Lane Taylor also struggled last season. With such weak play at right guard, Taylor’s drop off in play came at the worse time. The Packers are hoping that Taylor’s play dropped off because of the off-season ankle surgery he had prior to last season. For new offensive line coach Adam Stenavich, who already has a tough task in front of him in replacing former offensive line coach James Campen, having Taylor get back to his 2017 play would be a major help. But for now, the Packers need to concentrate on improving the starting right guard position.
In reviewing the possible free agent options at guard, there are two possible candidates that Gutekunst might look at this off-season.
Quinton Spain, Tennessee Titans
An undrafted free agent out of West Virginia, Spain has played his four-year NFL career with the Titans. In his four years with the Titans, he started 48 games. His offensive coordinator this past season was now Packers head coach Matt LaFleur.
With Spain starting at left guard for the Titans, running back Derrick Henry rushed for 1,059 yards in 2018. LaFleur has said that he will emphasize the run, which will help quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the play action pass. Having someone like Spain who not only does an excellent job in the run game but understands LaFleur’s scheme, would only be beneficial for the Packers. If he were to sign with the Packers, he might be asked to move to the right side of the Packers offensive line or they would need to move Taylor to the right side.
Rodger Saffold, Los Angeles Rams
Saffold will have quite a few possible suitors this off-season. With being a part of an offensive line that went to this year’s Super Bowl, he will skyrocket up a lot of NFL’s want list.
A former second-round pick out of Indiana in 2010, he started his pro career as a left tackle, a position he played while in college. In 2013, he played at both tackle and guard, something he would do until 2017 when he made the move to guard permanently.
His play in 2017 earned him a spot on the second-team All-Pro team. He also blocked for a running back this past season that had exceptional stats. The Rams Todd Gurley rushed for 1,251 yards and had 17 rushing touchdowns with Saffold at left guard.
Like with Spain, he would either have to switch sides or the Packers would need to move Taylor to the right side. Out of him and Spain, Spain would be the younger option of the two. Saffold will be 31 when next season starts, so how many quality years he still has left might play a part in the Packers going after him.
Starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga has one more year left on his contract. He has been rumored to be a possible salary cap casualty. But the Packers currently don’t have a replacement, short or long-term, on the roster. His backup, Jason Spriggs, has shown that he is incapable of stepping in and playing at an NFL level.
It wouldn’t be shocking if Gutekunst and the Packers spend a high round draft choice on a possible successor for Bulaga in this year’s draft. If they were to do that it still will take some time for that rookie to become a contributor for the Packers offensive line.
The Packers might choose to bring in some insurance through free agency. That player, if they choose to sign one, could serve as Bulaga’s backup while the high round draft choice sits and learns the pro game.
Here are two possible free agent tackles the Packers could look at to provide depth to the Packers offensive line.
Billy Turner, Denver Broncos
Turner is a former third-round draft choice from 2014 by the Miami Dolphins. He spent two full seasons, along with a partial season in 2016, with the Dolphins. During his time with the Dolphins, he spent time at tackle as well as guard. He was cut by the Dolphins during the 2016 season, after not playing to his third round status.
He was picked up briefly by the Baltimore Ravens but was released before even playing a down. The Denver Broncos quickly picked him up on waivers. He played three games for the Broncos in 2016. In 2017, his season was cut short because of a broken hand he suffered in week six of the regular season.
This past season, Turner saw time at both guard and tackle. He played in 16 games for the Broncos and started 11 of them. He played solidly for the Broncos this past season. When injuries depleted their offensive line, Turner stepped in and contributed.
The Broncos seem to be interested in bringing him back. But he might be a good addition to the Packers offensive line. Not only could he backup Bulaga, but he could compete for a spot at guard, or at the very least, provide quality depth at the position.
Ja’Wuan James, Miami Dolphins
James was selected in the first round by the Miami Dolphins in the 2014 NFL draft after playing collegiately at the University of Tennessee.
In his rookie campaign, he was named the starting right tackle prior to week one. He held that position until injuries forced him to move to the left side. He struggled with the switch, but the fact that he played on the left side might draw NFL teams to look at him this off-season.
During his tenure with the Dolphins, he started a total of 62 games at tackle. Unlike Turner, James is strictly a tackle. Although he could play on the left side in a pinch, his best spot is on the right side.
Signing Turner to be a backup might be difficult for the Packers. James has a lot of experience as a starter and has been solid when he has played. If he finds the market to be difficult, he could be had on a one year deal. With Bulaga’s injury history James could possibly look at Green Bay as a possible destination.