Jahri Evans willing to play waiting game with Packers
GREEN BAY – If the Green Bay Packers want right guard Jahri Evans to play for them this fall, he’s open to a reunion.
Evans is in no rush to decide his future. He could still choose retirement, but Evans said Wednesday he wants to play a 13th NFL season. Continuing his career, Evans said, depends on finding the right situation.
He considers the Packers an ideal fit.
“I’m not opposed to coming back to Green Bay,” Evans said. “I loved my last year in Green Bay. Green Bay was great. I loved the coaching staff, I loved the locker room. I loved the organization, the community. It was awesome. It was a great fit for me.
“My goal is, I wanted to win another Super Bowl. I still do. So that’s my focus right now. But, you know, it’s still early. We’re sitting in the first week of April right now. So it’s very early.”
Evans said he has stayed in contact with the Packers this offseason. His agent met with the team at the NFL scouting combine.
A stopgap solution last season, Evans was signed days before the NFL draft to replace Pro Bowler T.J. Lang. Evans was one of the Packers' most consistent offensive linemen, starting the first 14 games. He played three games through a left knee contusion initially sustained at Pittsburgh, only shutting down for the season after the Packers were eliminated from playoff contention.
At that point, Evans said, it was time to let younger teammates take snaps.
Despite missing the final two games, Evans left a positive impression on the coaching staff. He was a leader in the locker room, reliable on the field. After the season, Evans said his mobility had waned since his prime, but his veteran savvy helped compensate. In his exit interview with coach Mike McCarthy, Evans said the Packers left open a possibility to return.
“He definitely thought that I played well this year,” Evans said. “He liked my play. He liked my locker room presence. He liked some of the things I gave to the young guys as far as just experience, technique, talks. So he wasn’t opposed to me coming back to the Packers for another season.”
Evans said he doesn’t expect to be with a team this spring. Likewise, the Packers are unlikely to decide until after the draft. With right guard and right tackle open to competition, they’re expected to target offensive linemen.
The Packers have several in-house candidates to start on the right side of their offensive line, but most come with uncertainty. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is recovering from the second torn ACL of his career, this one in his right knee. A source familiar with the team said he expects the Packers to retain Bulaga through his recovery, and wouldn’t be surprised to see him start at right tackle at some point this fall.
“They won’t cut him,” the source said. “They might need him.”
Behind Bulaga, Jason Spriggs (knee) and Kyle Murphy (foot) are top in-house candidates, but both are recovering from significant injuries that landed them on injured reserve last season. Spriggs returned from IR in early November, but dislocated his left kneecap one snap into the Packers' loss to the Minnesota Vikings in December.
Justin McCray is the top in-house candidate to start at right guard. McCray impressed as a versatile, top backup last season, but multiple scouts said he’s best used as a reserve.
At the annual league meeting earlier this month, McCarthy seemed prepared to give McCray and Lucas Patrick the chance to compete for the Packers' starting right guard job, but he left open the possibility Evans could return.
“Jahri is definitely part of the conversation,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know exactly where he is as far as what his goals are, but we’re open (to him returning). Let’s be honest, you cannot have enough offensive linemen (with) the ability to play multiple positions.
“Lucas Patrick and McCray, what they did last year, you just can’t have enough of those type of guys. And they definitely deserve an opportunity to compete for a starting position.”
The Packers likely would only re-sign Evans if McCray, Patrick and an upcoming draft prospect prove incapable of starting.
Because of Evans’ veteran experience and familiarity in the Packers’ pass-reliant offensive scheme, it’s unnecessary to sign him before training camp. The Packers have used a similar approach with long snapper Brett Goode in recent years, declining to re-sign him until a potential replacement proves incapable.
In the meantime, Evans has plenty of responsibilities away from football occupying his time. His wife, Takia, gave birth to their first child March 16, a son named Atlas.
“Right now,” Evans said, “just back home in Philly, just getting our house set up. Making sure my wife and our newborn son are comfortable. When time comes, I’ll get back to working out and training and see how I feel.”
The first decade of Evans’ career brought nothing but continuity. He played his first 11 seasons with the New Orleans Saints, only missing seven games. Evans made six straight Pro Bowls, and was a first-team All-Pro four straight years from 2009-12.
On Wednesday, Evans said he was happy with how he played in 2017. He believes he has more good football left to give, but it’s important he finds a stable situation with a team contending for a championship.
“I know people are wondering,” Evans said, “if I want to play, if I don’t want to play. I don’t think that I’ll never want to play football. I wish I could play it forever. I think we all do. So, yeah, of course, I don’t think I’ll say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to play anymore.’
“It’s not, ‘Do I want to retire or do I want to play?’ It’s more so just making sure everything is stable for me at this moment. The last couple years have been a little different for me. I’d never experienced free agency. Moving from state to state, four different states, three different teams. So it was more so just trying to get things settled with the birth of my son.”