Is Yosh Nijman the Green Bay Packers RT of the Future?

Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Yosh Nijman (73) blocks Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) during the third quarter of their game Sunday, October 3, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17.Packers04 11
Green Bay Packers offensive tackle Yosh Nijman (73) blocks Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt (90) during the third quarter of their game Sunday, October 3, 2021 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17.Packers04 11 /

Prior to the 2021 season, we knew the Green Bay Packers had a very raw but toolsy offensive tackle in Yosh Nijman. At 6’7″ – 314 pounds, Nijman has the size that NFL teams covet at the tackle position, and he is a terrific athlete as well.

"“To be honest with you, he is probably the most explosive person on this team,” said fellow tackle Billy Turner earlier this month. “Pound for pound, the way he moves and the way he’s able to move is second to none. He’s a specimen.”"

However, that’s about all we knew at that time. We had seen very little of Nijman in action during his first two seasons with the Green Bay Packers.

But due to a series of injuries along the offensive line this season, we’ve gotten to see quite a bit of Nijman–and he has definitely impressed. According to PFF ($$), in 289 pass-blocking snaps, Nijman has allowed three sacks and 16 pressures.

"“Yosh has been big time for our team,” LaFleur said via SI. “He’s done an outstanding job. I think our offensive staff does a great job game planning. I’ve said it many times: Steno and Butkus [offensive line coaches Adam Stenavich and Luke Butkus] do a great job of helping our players get prepared. But also, it comes down to the players and their ability to take whatever it is you’re giving them and go out there and execute. I’m super-proud of him, just the work he puts in on a daily basis, his approach to the game and how much it means to him, and it’s evident. Before each game, I always go up to him. He cares about this a lot and that’s why he puts so much time and effort into it.”"

Now, of course, Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers have provided Nijman with some assistance along the way, including plenty of quick passes and tight end chips, but at the end of the day, it’s Nijman who is going up against Nick Bosa, Myles Garrett, TJ Watt, and others.

Nijman has proven that he can be a capable starter in this league, so if we look ahead to 2022, what does that mean for him and the Green Bay Packers?

In 2022, Nijman will be an exclusive rights free agent (ERFA), meaning he has less than three years of accrued NFL experience, and if Green Bay offers Nijman a one-year league-minimum deal, he cannot negotiate with other teams. So even for a Packers team that will be under a cap crunch, I think it’s safe to say that Nijman will be back.

So if we are under the assumption that Nijman will be back in 2022, what capacity will that be in?

David Bakhtiari is, of course, the team’s left tackle, and Billy Turner is still under contract for one more season. Does that mean that Nijman will go back to being the team’s swing tackle and one of the better off the bench offensive tackles in the game? Or do the Packers decide to move on from Turner instead?

As we all know, there are going to be a lot of difficult financial decisions made next offseason. Currently, Over the Cap has the Green Bay Packers projected to be $40.4 million over the 2022 salary cap, and that figure doesn’t take into account the incoming draft class, any free-agent additions, the practice squad, or in-season spending. So, in short, the Packers need to create much more than just $40.4 million in cap space.

One way to free up that precious cap space is through veteran cuts where the dead cap hit is less than the cap hit–and Turner falls into that category. His 2022 cap hit is $8.8 million, while his dead cap hit is roughly $5.8 million, meaning the Packers can save $3 million in cap space by cutting him. That’s not a huge amount by any means, but every little bit helps.

Although not often talked about — which ultimately is a good thing for an offensive lineman — Turner has been incredibly steady for this Green Bay Packers team at right tackle over the last two seasons. Turner currently ranks sixth among all tackles in ESPN’s pass-block win rate metric—so it’s not as if moving on from him is a simple decision, but we’ve seen similar difficult decisions made in recent years with Bryan Bulaga and Corey Linsley.

"“Billy Turner needs to get consideration for the Pro Bowl,” Rodgers said earlier this season via Packers Wire. “I know we’re only six games in, but he’s played outstanding. He really has. He’s a master of his craft. Nobody works harder at his craft than Billy. I’m really proud of him.”"

When it comes to Nijman’s role with the Green Bay Packers beyond 2021, there are several options that are available. Although there certainly is a transition that comes with moving from left tackle to right tackle, considering that Nijman is still young and developing, coupled with the Packers financial situation in 2022, one would think that this is a move that’s well within play, given his performance this season.

With all of that said, first, we need to finish out the 2021 season with what hopefully becomes a Super Bowl run, and then from there, we will see how Green Bay decides to navigate this offseason. But what we do know is that whoever makes up the offensive line room in 2022, LaFleur is going to put the best five on the field, and that very well could mean Nijman at right tackle.