Green Bay Packers: Signs Point to Bryan Bulaga Not Being Re-Signed

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 1: Tackle Bryan Bulaga #77 of the Green Bay Packers blocks against the New York Giants in the first half in the snow at MetLife Stadium on December 1, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - DECEMBER 1: Tackle Bryan Bulaga #77 of the Green Bay Packers blocks against the New York Giants in the first half in the snow at MetLife Stadium on December 1, 2019 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Pereira/Getty Images) /

Based on some rumors from the NFL Combine, it appears that re-signing Bryan Bulaga may not be a priority for the Green Bay Packers.

When many initially think about the needs that the Green Bay Packers have to address this offseason, the first two that likely come to mind are wide receiver and inside linebacker for valid reasons. However, with Bryan Bulaga being a free agent, the Packers have a huge hole to fill at right tackle as well. And it can be easily argued that tackle is a more important position than what both receiver and linebacker are.

But out of the NFL Combine this past week we learned a few new bits of information and it all points towards Bulaga’s tenure in Green Bay coming to an end.

The first news on the matter came Friday morning from Tom Silverstein and Jim Owczarski of Packers News, saying that Green Bay and Bulaga’s representatives hadn’t had any conversations up to this point about a new contract:

"“According to a source, the Packers have not had any talks with his agent since the season ended.There’s plenty of time before the free-agent period begins, but if the Packers were eager to get him under contract they probably would have done so already. The team may be waiting to see how the CBA goes and whether they will have more salary-cap space than anticipated.”"

Then on Monday, in an article by Matt Schneidman of The Athletic (subscription required), he mentioned that his best guess was that Bulaga would sign elsewhere this offseason:

"“After putting an ear to the ground at the combine, my best guess is Bryan Bulaga signs elsewhere in free agency, Jared Veldheer re-signs with the Packers and starts the season at right tackle and Gutekunst uses his first pick on Green Bay’s 2020 swing and right tackle of the future.”"

While Bulaga has caught a lot of flack from fans during his career for his injury history, I tend to think it is a bit overblown. Does he miss time with injuries? Yes. Is it as bad as some say it is? No. After missing a good chunk of 2017 with an ACL injury, Bulaga has started 30 of the last 32 regular-season games for the Green Bay Packers. And in case you didn’t notice, he was very good in 2019.

In his 612 pass-blocking snaps last season, Bulaga would allow just four sacks and four quarterback hits according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). For some context, Jack Conklin who many think is the top tackle on the free agent market, allowed five sacks and four quarterback hits in 2019. And take it for what it’s worth, but their run blocking grades were very similar as well.

It’s also worth pointing out that Bulaga had all of that success against some of the best edge rushers the NFL has to offer. This list includes Danielle Hunter, Everson Griffen, Khalil Mack, Von Miller, DeMarcus Lawrence, and a number of others.

Yet despite his stellar play, I’m sure his injury history, age, and potential cost on the open market are all deterrents that could keep the Packers away.

As I mentioned above, injuries have been a part of his career and at almost 30-years-old, it’s a valid question wondering how he will look healthwise two or three years from now. And with a projected average annual value from Spotrac of $10.1 million, he certainly won’t be cheap.

But with that said, just about any move the Green Bay Packers make that doesn’t involve Bryan Bulaga at right tackle in 2020 is going to be a downgrade at a key position. For one, we just don’t want to see Billy Turner playing significant snaps at right tackle and a viable replacement for the 2020 season just isn’t on the roster at this moment.

Another option is that they could look to bring back Jared Veldheer as Schneidman had mentioned since he stepped in quite well during his two starts last season. But also keep in mind that Veldheer will be 33-years-old before the 2020 season begins, he was previously retired, and what we saw in 2019 was a small sample size. I think over the course of the 16 game season he will be exposed more often and to put it simply, he’s just not the same player that Bulaga is.

Lastly, Green Bay could look to the draft in which they could try to find their starter for 2020 but that is incredibly risky given we don’t know who is going to be available, and they certainly don’t want to be in a position where they feel like they have to take a tackle early on. That leads to reaching and it is how teams get into trouble.

And even if they do choose to re-sign Veldheer for example, they’ll still have to spend an early-round draft pick on the position as his eventual replacement. But for what it’s worth, I’d say the same thing if Bulaga was brought back as well.

I suppose a potential positive from letting Bulaga walk is that with the money that they will save, it could allow the Packers to pursue a player like Austin Hooper or maybe even Cory Littleton in free agency. Both would be fantastic additions but on the flip side, cutting costs at a premier position such as tackle with a quarterback who will turn 37-years-old this season is certainly a bit worrisome as well. I mean, we all remember what happened the few times Alex Light had to take over at right tackle, don’t we?

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Overall it’s a difficult decision that they have to make and if the Green Bay Packers do decide to let Bulaga walk, I think it leaves a real question mark on the tackle position heading into 2020. With free agency just a few weeks away, this is certainly something to keep our eyes on.