There are at least two teams competing with the Green Bay Packers for the services of Pro Bowl guard T.J. Lang.
Without a deal from the Packers, Lang is going to visit the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions, according to numerous reports. The Lions lost guard Larry Warford and Lang, who lives in the Detroit suburb of Northville, would be a logical replacement. He was meeting with the Lions on Thursday afternoon but left without signing a contract, according to the Detroit Free-Press. The Seahawks are next on Lang’s itinerary. They had one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL last season. “I think we’d like to add some experience at that position,” Seahawks GM John Schneider said of his line at the Scouting Combine.
Wherever Lang lands, he’s going to be paid handsomely.
Guard, once considered something of a throwaway position, has risen to prominence this offseason. Just look at the deals that were struck before the start of free agency on Thursday afternoon:
Kevin Zeitler, Scout.com’s top-ranked free-agent guard, signed a five-year, $60 million contract to go from Cincinnati to Cleveland.
Warford, the third-ranked free-agent guard, went from Detroit to New Orleans. Terms were not immediately available but he was expected to get at least $8 million per season.
Ronald Leary, the odd man out in Dallas but the fourth-ranked free-agent guard, signed a four-year, $35 million contract with Denver.
Laurent Duvernay-Tardif signed a five-year, $41.26 million contract extension with Kansas City in February.
Coming on the heels of his first Pro Bowl, Lang is being swept along for the ride. If the Packers can’t keep him, they’ll have a gaping hole on their offensive line.
When the Packers released Josh Sitton before the start of last season, at least they had Lane Taylor waiting in the wings. The Packers don’t have an obvious replacement should they lose Lang. When Lang was out last year, they went with Don Barclay, then Jason Spriggs and then Barclay again. Barclay, a valuable backup who probably isn't good enough to start 16 games, re-signed with a one-year deal worth up to $1.3 million. Spriggs, a second-round pick last year, was drafted to play tackle. With those as the only options at the moment, the Packers could be forced to use an early pick on a guard or move Bryan Bulaga from right tackle to right guard and insert Spriggs at right tackle.
Neither of those players is anywhere close to the caliber of Lang. In 13 games this past season, he allowed one sack and was penalized four times (twice for holding). In 2015, which might have been the best year of his career, Lang allowed 1.5 sacks and was penalized twice (once for holding). In 2015, Lang ranked fourth among guards in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency metric and the team averaged 0.20 yards more per carry with Lang in the game.
In his first five seasons as a starter, Lang missed two games. He missed three this season due to a broken foot. Ever the tough guy, Lang sort of let the injury heal before returning to action. The Packers promptly scored 30-plus points in six consecutive games — a streak that ended in the NFC Championship Game, when Lang reinjured the foot. Lang cried when he got hurt, knowing free agency was ahead.
Lang had offseason hip surgery, which could impact his marketplace and might explain why he's taking visits. "I don’t see T.J. doing anything before training camp," coach Mike McCarthy said at the Scouting Combine,
Green Bay re-signed outside linebacker Nick Perry but lost center J.C. Tretter and defensive back Micah Hyde.
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.