Lang eyes Lions, Seahawks; Hyde, Tretter exit

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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T.J. Lang has been a starter since 2011 and becomes an unrestricted free agent next month. He has been bothered by injuries, including a broken foot this season.

GREEN BAY - The Green Bay Packers have not lost right guard T.J. Lang yet, but they have serious competition for his services.

An NFL source said Lang will take free-agent visits to Seattle and Detroit after not being able to reach agreement on a new deal with the Packers. It doesn't mean Lang won't be back, but the fact the team didn't get a deal done leaves the door wide open for the veteran to jump to another team.

In the meantime, cornerback Micah Hyde has signed with the Buffalo Bills and center JC Tretter has agreed to terms with the Cleveland Browns. Hyde's deal, according to a source, is worth $30.5 million over five years, including $14.5 million guaranteed. According to CBS, Tretter's deal was worth $16.75 million over three years, including $10 million guaranteed.

With one starting-caliber lineman already departing and the potential to lose another, the Packers re-signed guard/center Don Barclay to a one-year deal. The contract, according to Barclay's agents at Vantage Management Group, is worth slightly more than $1.3 million if Barclay hits incentives.

The agency that represents running back Eddie Lacy tweeted that the free-agent running back would be making visits to Seattle, Minnesota and Green Bay. In each case, he is expected to have his surgically repaired ankle examined to see how much progress he has made.

The Packers need to set up an official visit because Lacy is a free agent and no longer part of their team. Lacy underwent surgery on his left ankle in late October and still was in a walking boot late in the season.

The Packers' priority all along has been to sign Lang, their veteran leader on the offensive line. There has been little news leaked about the pace of negotiations, but given Lang is one of the top two guards available on the market it has been clear that it will cost the Packers a considerable amount to keep him.

A source with connections to the Packers doubted the club would pay the market price for Lang, but the Packers have made 11th-hour deals in the past. This time, it appears the Packers have decided to let Lang test the market and see if he can do better than what the Packers are offering.

Lang's case was bolstered by the $12-million-a-year deal Cincinnati's Kevin Zeitler signed with Cleveland and the $8-million-a-year deal Dallas' Ron Leary signed with Denver at the start of free agency. Lang's market value is probably somewhere in between, perhaps around the $10 million mark.

Both the Seahawks and Lions should be appealing spots for Lang.

General manager John Schneider was on the Packers' staff when Lang was drafted and has paid significant money for free-agent players in the past. The Seahawks' offensive line was in a shambles last year and Lang would be a tremendous building block for the perennial playoff contenders.

Lang grew up in the Detroit area and still has a home in Michigan, so signing with the Lions would allow him to play for his hometown team. The Lions were just a game away from winning the NFC North last season, but a home loss to the Packers in Week 17 relegated them into a wild-card playoff berth.

Both teams will want to see how he is progressing physically after offseason hip surgery before committing big money to him. They may also want to examine his foot, which he broke in Week 10 against Tennessee.

Lang, 29, was selected to his first Pro Bowl after starting 16 of the Packers' 19 games last season at right guard. Despite missing three games and playing most of the last part of the season with the broken foot, Lang was one of the line's most consistent players. He allowed the second fewest sacks of the starters while playing 74 percent of the offensive snaps.

Despite injuries to his knee, hip, foot and shoulder -- he had surgery on the shoulder after the 2015 season and the hip earlier this year -- he has started 91 regular-season games since 2011, the most of any Packers offensive player. He has started 94 games, including 60 at right guard. He also has played left guard, right tackle and left tackle.

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The Packers never showed much interest in re-signing Hyde. They probably could have signed him for around $5 million a year before he hit free agency, a source said, but it was apparent they'd decided to move on.

Hyde said in a tweet that the Packers never made him an offer and thanked Packers fans for their support.

Hyde had a productive year, but it's clear the Packers want to get faster in the secondary and speed was Hyde's weakness.

The Packers now have lost their two most veteran cornerbacks, Hyde and Sam Shields, who was released soon after the season after missing most of it with a concussion.

The Packers will miss Hyde's ability to move from safety to cornerback and his veteran leadership. They also allowed cornerback Casey Hayward to leave in free agency last year and never found a replacement for him.

The top three returning cornerbacks are Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins and LaDarius Gunter, all of whom proved incapable of being a reliable starter. The Packers are expected to sign a veteran corner in free agency, but it's unlikely to be a big name. They will be looking for help in the draft.

The Packers never really expected to keep Tretter, who was their starting center last season until a knee injury sidelined him and allowed Corey Linsley to re-take the job he had held since the beginning of the 2014 season. The Packers are paying Linsley a base salary of $1.7 million per year and weren't going to invest more than that in Tretter.

Tretter, who started seven games last year before getting hurt, has battled injuries his entire career. He missed his entire rookie season with a broken ankle and then 17 of the next 48 regular-season games with knee injuries.

Tretter, 26, absorbed a hard hit during the loss to the Falcons on Oct. 30 and missed the final nine games with what originally was described as “significant MCL damage.”

But the swelling lingered well beyond the expected recovery time, and results of Tretter’s MRI were sent to three specialists around the country for further examination. Ultimately, Tretter and his agents asked renowned surgeon Dr. James Andrews to scope the knee in hopes of discovering a problem.

Tretter underwent minor arthroscopic surgery Jan. 17 at Andrews’ clinic in Alabama. Andrews removed a piece of tissue that had broken free and lodged in the knee, which triggered Tretter’s discomfort after each practice. Andrews found no cartilage or structural damage of any kind, a source said.

The Packers selected Tretter in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. He appeared in 31 games over the last three seasons and made 10 starts.

Re-signing Barclay was the corollary to losing Tretter. Barclay, 27, immediately moves into the backup center role for the Packers and offers reasonable flexibility at three other positions — left guard, right guard and right tackle, all of which he has played for the Packers.

Barclay improved his chances of receiving a contract offer with a strong showing in the NFC championship game against the Falcons. He played 50 snaps in relief of injured left guard Lane Taylor and reinforced his standing as a useful backup.

Also Thursday, the Packers declined to make tender offers to restricted free-agent outside linebackers Jayrone Elliott and Jordan Tripp. Running back John Crockett, an exclusive rights free agent, also wasn't offered.

Staff writer Michael Cohen contributed to this story.

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