GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Packers appear to have their replacement for departed guard T.J. Lang.
Heading into a draft not very deep in guards, the Packers signed veteran Jahri Evans, a six-time Pro Bowl guard who will turn 34 in August, a source confirmed.
NFL Network was the first to report the one-year deal.
Evans, an unrestricted free agent, has spent 11 years with the Saints, starting all 16 games last year after a brief stint with the Seattle Seahawks. Evans signed with the Seahawks after the 2015 season, was released in the final cutdown and then returned to the Saints.
The Packers were heading into the draft without a clear replacement for Lang, who signed with the Detroit Lions in free agency. The Packers chose not to match the three-year, $28.5 million deal Lang signed with the Lions, leaving a big hole at right guard.
The only candidates the Packers had on the roster for the position were veteran Don Barclay and second-year pros Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy and Lucas Patrick. Spriggs and Murphy played left tackle in college and are considered best-suited for tackle in the NFL.
The Packers are hoping Evans has something left in his tank. The Seahawks, who were desperate for offensive line help last year, apparently didn’t think so. But Evans did make it through an entire year with the Saints and will have the benefit of playing with an experienced group in Green Bay.
After the season, Seahawks general manager John Schneider said he regretted cutting Evans given the disastrous year his offensive line had.
"Jahri, he was great," Schneider told the New Orleans Times-Picayune at the scouting combine in February. "The guy came to camp with us; he did a great job while he was here mentoring some of the younger guys.
"And if he was sitting right here I'd say the same thing: We were a little concerned about his durability being an older player, and so we were just going to see how it went getting through that first week of the season. But he went back (to New Orleans) right away and did a great job."
Evans, a right guard, played in all 16 games during each of his first seven seasons and was elected to the Pro Bowl six straight times from 2009-14. He has played 169 out of a possible 176 regular-season games over the course of his 11 seasons.
The Packers have tried to plug holes in the interior of the offensive line with older veterans before under Thompson, most recently with center Jeff Saturday in 2012. Saturday was 37 years old at the time and was a weak link on the line, eventually giving way to Evan Dietrich-Smith.
Evans is younger than Saturday was at that time. He, like Saturday, is a revered member of the only other organization for which he has played a regular-season game.
Saints coach Sean Payton said of Evans after the Saints released him following the 2015 seasons: "Jahri has been a fantastic player for our team and an integral part of our success over the last 10 years. He's one of the toughest and smartest players I have ever been around in coaching and that coupled with his unselfishness and dependability made him one of the most respected players in our locker room."
Payton decided to move on at the position, however, after Evans gave him 16 good games in '16.
The Saints paid former Detroit guard Larry Warford $34 million over four years to replace Evans, an unrestricted free agent. They had also considered signing free-agent guard Kevin Zeitler, who signed a five-year, $60 million contract with Cleveland.
According to ESPN.com, Payton, when asked why the Saints chose to move on from Evans this offseason, said, "The right guy."
Because Evans is an unrestricted free agent, he is eligible to count against the Packers in the compensatory-pick equation; however, the fact he signed only a one-year deal means he won't count much if he does at all.