Packers: Changing of the guard

Since 2011 a pair of former fourth-round draft picks have held down the guard position for the Green Bay Packers. Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang have quietly been one of the best guard tandems in the league since 2011. The pair of former fourth-round picks have been the anchors for the Packers offensive line for the past five years. During that five-year run the duo have combined to miss just four starts. To put that in perspective the Packers have had four different week one starters at center during that span.

However, all good things must come to an end.  With Sitton and Lang set to be free agents following the upcoming season the duo that has been the glue for the Packers up front could be playing their final season together.

Ted Thompson and his staff will face difficult questions surrounding the offensive line following the 2016-17 season. Starting left tackle, David Bakhtiari will also be a free agent. The versatile backup, J.C. Tretter will also hit the open market. The Packers offensive line could be in for a total tear down or face lift, depending on which way you look at the situation.

All four of the pending free agents are former fourth round picks. Lets take a quick glance at each of their situations.

Bakhtiari is the most likely to be playing his final season in a Packers uniform. The Packers didn’t trade up for Jason Spriggs in the second round in this year’s draft for him to be a backup for the foreseeable future. The left tackle position is one of the most important positions on the gridiron and there will be a team that will be willing to pay Bakhtiari premium money to protect the backside of their quarterback. Never say never, but this is likely Bakhtiari’s swan song in Green Bay.

Jan 16, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers offensive tackle David Bakhtiari (69) against the Arizona Cardinals during the NFC Divisional round playoff game at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Sitton just turned 30, and will head into his contract season slimmed down to the 305-310 range. Sitton has started 79 consecutive games and is a technician. If the Packers can lock Sitton up to one last deal Aaron Rodgers will be a happy man. Sitton’s better days might be behind him but he’s still one of the top tier guards in the league.

Lang is another technician. He’s very good in pass protection and equally as good in the run game. The younger Lang could be more attractive to teams when he hits the open market. Unlike Sitton he doesn’t have as much mileage on his odometer.

This may not be a popular opinion but I think Tretter should be priority number one for Thompson. Tretter is only 25 and can play any position along the offensive line. I say pay either Sitton or Lang and let the other walk and plug in Tretter at the other guard position.

My way too early projection on what the starting offensive line will look like week one of the 2017 season is: Spriggs/Sitton/Linsley/Tretter/Bryan Bulaga. It’s been a great run with Sitton and Lang, but unfortunately I believe that duo will be broken up at the end of the 2016-17 season.