While Mark Tauscher continues to rehabilitate his knee, his football future remains in doubt – with the Packers or with any other NFL team, for that matter.
Tauscher, a nine-year veteran in Green Bay, remains an unrestricted free agent as he recovers from an untimely torn ACL suffered in a Dec. 7 game vs. the Houston Texans last season. That injury is complicating contract matters for the 31-year-old as the timetable for his full recovery is uncertain.
Coach Mike McCarthy told media at the NFL owners meetings recently that he has been in regular contact with Tauscher, who has been rehabbing at the Packers' facilities, but is uncertain about the right tackle's return.
"Well, he got hurt late last season and it's a serious injury so it would be wishful thinking whether he would be ready for training camp," McCarthy told Sirius NFL Radio.
Clearly at this point, Tauscher has to realize that his chances for any type of substantial long-term deal are gone. Factoring in the severity of his injury, his age and that he is coming off a subpar season puts him in a much different situation than seven years ago, when he signed a contract extension even in the midst of his rehabbing a serious injury to the same (left) knee. All of those factors could play into the Packers' favor.
Had Tauscher not been injured at the end of last year, the Packers would have had an even tougher decision to make. Being short on players at a position that is arguably one of the most valued in the league could have led the team's front office to feeling a sense of security in re-signing Tauscher while getting a younger player ready to take over his spot. His demand on the open market may have been a little higher, but his history with the Packers would have at least made Green Bay a player for a long-term deal.
Now, the Packers probably can get Tauscher for one year at a low cost. Even it that means waiting until the summer to sign him, they have the time. If that means putting him on the physically unable to perform list at the start of the regular season, they can afford that option.
Certainly, that Tauscher suffered another serious injury to the same knee raises some concern about whether he can be effective again. But Tauscher has never been about physical ability or athleticism. He has been more about leadership and getting the job done – two areas this young Packers team can benefit from.
Tauscher, one of the more colorful and well-spoken Packers for years, could play a valuable role as a mentor if he cannot gain a starting spot back. He has the smarts to switch to guard if needed and thus serve as a backup at multiple positions. The Packers certainly appear ready to make some changes along their offensive line this upcoming season, so why not include Tauscher in that plan?
Because it is still early April, much will depend on how the Packers' draft unfolds coupled with the status of Tauscher's recovery. There is little doubt the Packers will look to add offensive linemen as they are seriously thin at the tackle position. Nine-year tackle Chad Clifton is expected to return to his starting left tackle spot, but after that, second-year player Breno Giacomini is the only true tackle on the roster. Allen Barbre, Daryn Colledge, and Tony Moll are all listed at G/T, and recent free agent acquisition Duke Preston is expected to play an interior position.
The Packers definitely have some questions to answer along the offensive line. That is why, despite his injury, Tauscher should remain an option.
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