Before the free-agent signing period got under way, the Packers wrapped up a deal to retain standout right tackle Bryan Bulaga. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen was the first to report the news, saying Bulaga had told some teammates of his intention to return to the Packers.
In addition to the signing of star receiver Randall Cobb, the Packers have been able to hold onto their two premier free agents. Bulaga's return keeps the Packers' superb offensive line together for at least the next two years, with guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton and left tackle David Bakhtiari in the fold through 2016.
Coming off a hip injury that cost him the second half of the 2012 season and a torn ACL that sidelined him for all of 2013, Bulaga’s 2014 got off to a rough star. He sustained a knee injury that forced him from the lineup for half of the Week 1 game against Seattle and all of the Week 2 game against the Jets.
Bulaga, however, returned with a vengeance. Among right tackles, he was the fourth-best in the league, according to Pro Football Focus. He gave up four sacks, two hits and 20 hurries for a total of 26 pressures. That’s almost what he did in nine games in 2012 (four sacks, three hits, 20 hurries for 27 pressures). According to league data, the Packers averaged an 11th-ranked 4.54 yards on runs behind right tackle. He was flagged just twice for holding, according to STATS. With San Diego re-signing left tackle King Dunlap, Bulaga was slated to be the top offensive tackle to hit the open market.
So, the Packers didn’t let Bulaga hit the open market beyond getting to test the waters during the three-day window preceding this afternoon’s start of free agency.
“Very blessed that I came out of this year healthy for the first time in a while,” Bulaga said at the end of the season. “Very proud of the way the offensive line as a group that we played, and the way the offense played. It was a good year from that standpoint. The end goal is getting to the Super Bowl. That’s what we wanted. But from a standpoint of how the offense did and how we came together as a unit, I was proud of that.”
Bulaga, who will turn 26 on March 21, likely got a big payday — even if he turned down bigger money elsewhere. The offensive tackle market was accelerated when Jacksonville gave a reported $32 million over five years — $6.4 million per season — to Jermey Parnell, who had just a handful of starts in his first five seasons in the league.
However, they lost cornerback Davon House to Jacksonville, which entered free agency with more cap space than any team in the league. According to the Journal Sentinel, House received between $6 million and $6.25 million from the Jaguars. That’s a lot of money for a player who, after four years in the league, has not proven if he’s a 16-games-per-season starter. It does make cornerback a bigger priority in the draft.
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