Packers: Assessing Bryan Bulaga’s market value in free agency
The Packers‘ offensive line is up there with the best in the league when it comes to pass protection. The two tackles — Bryan Bulaga and David Bakhtiari — are key to the line’s success.
Bulaga’s injury history is a concern, and next month he is set to hit free agency. The Packers will likely want him back, but how much would a potential deal cost?
Spotrac estimates that Bulaga could receive a deal in the region of three years and worth $30.45 million, averaging just over $10 million a season. That would actually be a reasonable deal, despite his age and injury history. That kind of average salary wouldn’t even be enough to make the top 20 among tackles.
But even if that number rises, the Packers should be willing to match other offers. He’s that valuable. The Packers aren’t in rebuild mode or guaranteed to compete for a championship for many years.
Aaron Rodgers will turn 37 in December. The time to win is now. Brian Gutekunst’s focus can’t go beyond the next window of two to three years.
Is there an element of risk in handing Bulaga a new multi-year deal? Possibly. He turns 31 next month and has only played all 16 regular season games three times in his career.
But here’s a counter-argument. What is a bigger risk — banking on Bulaga staying healthy for the majority of the season, or completely starting over at right tackle? It won’t be easy to find a replacement for Bulaga, not unless the Packers are willing to spend a lot of money. And if they’ve got the money to spend, just pay Bulaga.
Moving Billy Turner to right tackle? That would be a downgrade at a premium position and would create questions at right guard.
The other option would be via the draft. While there are a number of talented tackles in this year’s class, expecting a rookie to come right in and play at a high level is far from a guarantee. While it would be smart to use a mid-round pick at the position for depth in the short term and a potential long-term starter, plugging in a rookie at RT in Week 1 of the 2020 season would come with plenty of risk.
Not only that, the Packers need as many of their draft resources possible to address their major positions of need. Re-signing Bulaga ensures they are strong at both tackle positions.
Jared Veldheer came in late in the season and filled in for Bulaga during the divisional-round win. While many fans hope he’ll be back, that’s far from a guarantee. Veldheer retired last year and returned late in the season. There’s absolutely no guarantee he’d be willing to return for a full season as a starter. That’s a decision only he knows the answer to.
Whether Spotrac’s market value is accurate for Bulaga or the contract works out at more money per year, the Packers should do everything possible to bring him back in 2020.