The Green Bay Packers headed into this week’s draft with a huge need at guard.
One day before Thursday’s first round, general manager Ted Thompson took a step toward replacing Pro Bowler T.J. Lang by signing former Pro Bowler and All-Pro Jahri Evans.
To be sure, Evans would be a stopgap signing and wouldn’t prevent the Packers from drafting a guard this week, but there aren’t many athletic guard prospects in this draft. This move takes the pressure off Thompson to possibly reach to get a player that fits the scheme.
The Packers are familiar with Evans professionally and personally, as agent Jerrold Colton pointed out. The Packers coached the Pro Bowl following the 2011 and 2012 seasons, when Evans played in the annual all-star game. Colton and Russ Ball, the Packers’ vice president of football administration and player finance, negotiated Evans’ first contract with the Saints in 2006, when he was their fourth-round pick. From Evans’ perspective, Colton said he was hoping to land with a Super Bowl contender. "He was looking for the right opportunity with the right team," Colton said.
Evans will turn 34 on Aug. 22. In his prime, he was a dominant performer. He was voted to the Pro Bowl for six consecutive seasons from 2009 through 2014, adding All-Pro honors from 2009 through 2012. And he’s as reliable as they come. In his first 11 seasons, he missed seven games — two games in 2013 and five games in 2015.
New Orleans released Evans following the 2015 season and he landed with Seattle. The offensive line-impaired Seahawks cut him toward the end of training camp last summer and he returned to New Orleans. He started all 16 games. According to STATS, he allowed three sacks and was penalized five times (three for holding). For comparison, in 13 games last season, Lang allowed one sack and was penalized four times (twice for holding).
“I feel like I can do this for as long as I want to," Evans told Nola.com in December. “I'm at a point where I know how to prepare my body, and I come from a workout background. I know what it takes to get ready to go. I proved that this year.
“It's just more so the want to. Obviously I want to, but also it's big leaving on your own terms; I think that's huge. And for me, sometimes I think for the older guys just taking a step back and ... getting away from it, it'll come to you eventually -- if you really want to (play) and if you don't want to. I feel like it'll come to me eventually, the feeling if I want to or not.”
While Evans considered his future, the Saints signed Larry Warford away from Detroit. Lang wound up replacing Warford with the Lions. And now Evans will replace Lang in Green Bay.
All 169 career games in 11 seasons have been starts at right guard. That was the position manned by Lang for the past four seasons.
It's been an eventful offseason for Green Bay. Thompson, who almost never signs unrestricted free agents, inked Evans and tight end Martellus Bennett, plus three street free agents — tight end Lance Kendricks, cornerback Davon House and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois. Green Bay lost Lang, defensive back Micah Hyde, outside linebackers Julius Peppers and Datone Jones, running back Eddie Lacy, tight end Jared Cook, center J.C. Tretter. That leaves Green Bay at minus-5 in the compensatory-picks ledger. The maximum number of compensatory picks a team can gain is four.
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.