The fifth of a 10-part position-by-position analysis of the Green Bay Packers’ roster and how they should proceed during the offseason.
UNDER CONTRACT: David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Bryan Bulaga, Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod, Lane Taylor, Andrew Tiller, Garth Gerhart, JC Tretter, Aaron Adams, Jeremy Vujnovich
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: Evan Dietrich-Smith, Marshall Newhouse
Where they stand
Packers coach Mike McCarthy declared over the weekend that Bakhtiari would remain at left tackle, where he started his entire rookie season in 2013 and did a decent job protecting the quarterback’s blind side. Bakhtiari replaced Bulaga, who was lost for the season with a knee injury in early August. The presumption is Bulaga, who had been shifted from right tackle to left tackle a year ago, will move back to right tackle, where he has spent the majority of his career. The Packers appear set at the guard positions with Sitton on the left side and Lang on the right. That leaves the center and right tackle starting positions up for grabs.
Dietrich-Smith became the starting center late in 2012 and assumed the job full-time last season. He will become a free agent next month and the Packers must decide whether he’s worth keeping, and at what cost. After breaking a leg late in the 2011 season, Sherrod should finally be 100 percent at the start of training camp. There’s no telling how much the injury has set him back, but as a former first-round draft choice there’s an expectation he could be in the mix for a starting job. Although some starting spots remain unsettled, the Packers are pleased with their depth and the competition that should commence in camp.
Bulaga has missed the last season and a half with knee and hip injuries and must prove he can come back strong. The best place to put him is at right tackle, where he can wage a winner-take-all battle with Barclay for the starting job. Sherrod could play either tackle spot, but it might be best to place him on the left side and offer the chance to unseat Bakhtiari.
Tretter appears to have many of the tools needed to start at center, but after missing almost his entire rookie season with a broken ankle, can the Packers thrust him into a starting role this year? That would be risky, which is why they should try to re-sign Dietrich-Smith and let him duke it out with Tretter for the No. 1 job. Dietrich-Smith has gained quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ trust and would be valuable to have around. His presence would give the Packers the luxury of grooming Tretter for another season before throwing him into the fire. Whether the Packers can justify such an expense is another matter.
Newhouse had a subpar season as a backup and shouldn't be brought back. Using a high draft pick on an offensive lineman isn’t necessary because of the Packers’ depth.