When Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson surprisingly released Josh Sitton at the end of training camp, at least he had Lane Taylor in reserve.
The Packers don’t have anyone in reserve entering 2017.
In that light, don’t the Packers have to re-sign T.J. Lang?
“Those are hypotheticals,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said when asked that question at the Scouting Combine. “I’m counting on T.J. to come back.”
Moments earlier, McCarthy proclaimed Lang “as fine an offensive lineman” as he’s coached in his 20-plus years in the NFL. Lang, however, figures to command top dollar in free agency. That was essentially insured when the Chiefs handed Laurent Duvernay-Tardif a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension that includes $20 million guaranteed last month. That’s a lot of money, especially for a guard.
“I think everybody values things differently,” said Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, who sounds like a native of Paris when pronouncing Duvernay-Tardif’s name. “I like the player. I think he has kind of a large upside, so I felt very comfortable where we were in that position in trying to lay that deal out.”
The 26-year-old Duvernay-Tardif is one of the NFL’s better young guards. The 29-year-old Lang, however, is a premier player — not to mention a team leader. While it’s possible a growing injury history will scare away some suitors, Lang more likely than not is going to see a lot of cash thrown his way. So what if Lang is offered a deal worth $10 million per season? Would that be too rich for the Packers, even with their $40 million of cap space?
If so, the Packers would practically be forced to use an early draft pick to grab an immediate starter — which isn’t ideal considering the needs on defense.
In an incredibly deep draft, the offensive line is lacking. But that’s true more about the offensive tackles than the guards. At guard, there are four clear top prospects: Indiana’s Dan Feeney and Western Kentucky’s Forrest Lamp are first-round options and Pittsburgh’s Dorian Johnson and Temple’s Dion Dawkins are considered second-round possibilities.
Historically, the Packers have selected college left tackles because they have the athleticism for pass protection. Lang, for instance, was a two-year starting left tackle at Eastern Michigan. Of Green Bay’s nine offensive linemen last year, seven played left tackle in college (starters Lang, David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga; backups J.C. Tretter, Jason Spriggs, Don Barclay and Kyle Murphy).The exceptions were center Corey Linsley and right guard Taylor.
Of the top four in this year’s draft, Lamp and Dawkins played left tackle in college.
Lamp was a four-year starter, with all but three of his 56 starts coming at left tackle. He was a second-team All-American as a senior, a season highlighted by allowing only one pressure against Alabama.
“I think I can play tackle,” Lamp said. “Everybody says the Alabama front, all three of those guys, are going to get drafted in the first round. I I can block those guys, why couldn’t I block anybody?”
Dawkins started at left tackle for his final three seasons, earning first-team all-conference as a senior. Like Lamp, Dawkins trumpeted his versatility.
“It's basically getting two boxes of pizza for the price of one,” he said. “It's a blessing that I have the opportunity to play multiple positions well. I'm planning on learning center, too."
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.