Minimal UDFA Signings Show O-Line's Depth

At least one undrafted rookie offensive lineman has made the Packers' roster the past four seasons. That will be a challenge this year. The offensive line is one of the team's deepest positions. The Packers signed only two undrafted rookies, including none of the tryout hopefuls.

It's practically an offseason tradition for coach Mike McCarthy to say he needs better play from his offensive line.

"I think as I sit here today, we'll be much better in that area," McCarthy said. "We better be. I can't go through (51) sacks again. That was unbelievable. I've never been through anything like that."

That, actually, was said during the NFL spring meetings in 2010. After his team gave up 51 sacks yet again in 2012, McCarthy in March said, "the left side and the center position, we need improvement there."

Perhaps the offensive line will be better this season, for reasons beyond McCarthy's decision to move Bryan Bulaga to left tackle, Josh Sitton to left guard and T.J. Lang to right guard.

This figures to be McCarthy's deepest offensive line.

Fourth-round picks were used on David Bakhtiari and J.C. Tretter, two players who fit the Packers' mold of being collegiate left tackles with the position versatility to move inside.

"I think every year going forward, you try to create competition and we have competition already set from the practice squad kids and the players that we currently have," offensive line coach James Campen said at the draft. "If I'm in that room, let's be honest, you've got two fourth-round picks back-to-back, certainly the competition barometer went up a heck of a lot. So, that's a good thing to have. And the men that are already in that room understand that, and they understood that before this draft. Our competition just got better."

Moreover, Derek Sherrod, the 2011 first-round pick who missed all of last season with a broken leg, presumably will be healthy enough to challenge for a starting position at right tackle. Plus, 2012 seventh-round pick Andrew Datko, who essentially redshirted last season after chronic shoulder problems ruined his senior season at Florida State and sent his draft stock tumbling, says he's healthy and ready to challenge for a roster spot.

With those four added to the mix, the Packers signed only two undrafted free agents: guard Lane Taylor and center Patrick Lewis. None of the tryout invitees was awarded a contract.

Two is the fewest since 2010.

Last season, the Packers signed a whopping six linemen after the draft — and that list doesn't include rookie Greg Van Roten, who wasn't signed after trying out at the rookie camp but was brought back before training camp.

From 2009 through 2012, at least one undrafted rookie offensive lineman has made the roster every season. One of them, Evan Dietrich-Smith, is the starting center. Another, Don Barclay, has a decent chance of being the starting right tackle.

With Bulaga, Sitton, Dietrich-Smith, Lang, Sherrod, Barclay, Marshall Newhouse and the draft picks, that's nine offensive linemen on a team that kept only seven last season but nine in previous seasons. That means Taylor and Lewis face an uphill — but hardly insurmountable — battle.

Offensive linemen during Ted Thompson's tenure

Year: Number of undrafted rookies signed; Undrafted players who made spent time on 53-man roster. (Number of linemen drafted.)

2013: Two signed. (Two drafted.)

2012: Six signed; Don Barclay, Greg Van Roten (who wasn't among the original six) made the team. (One drafted.)

2011: Three signed (there were no tryouts because of the lockout); Ray Dominguez made the team. (Two drafted.)

2010: Two signed: Nick McDonald made the team. (Two drafted.)

2009: Three signed; Evan Dietrich-Smith made the team. (Two drafted.)

2008: One signed; none made team. (Two drafted.)

2007: Two signed; none made team. (One drafted.)

2006: One signed; none made team. (Three drafted.)

2005: One signed; Chris White made the team. (Two drafted.)


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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