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Second in a series on the Packers' unrestricted free agents and their likelihood of remaining with the team.
GREEN BAY - When the Green Bay Packers claimed veteran tackle Jared Veldheer off waivers from the New England Patriots, there was no way to know the acquisition would help win a playoff game.
Veldheer arrived in Green Bay with extensive experience, starting 113 of his 118 career games over nine seasons. He was the Arizona Cardinals' left tackle when they beat the Packers in a 2015 NFC divisional-round playoff game. So he was no stranger to playoff pressure.
But Veldheer retired during the last offseason. He hadn’t played football in months. Joining a championship contender after Thanksgiving is daunting for anyone, even a veteran.
By the end, the Packers were sure glad Veldheer was on their roster.
When a fluke illness kept starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga from playing in the Packers’ NFC divisional-round game against the Seattle Seahawks, Veldheer stepped in on short notice and played every snap. That he was able to seal the right edge helped the Packers advance to the NFC championship game.
General manager Brian Gutekunst acknowledged at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis he’d spoken with Veldheer about the future, but he did not disclose details of their conversation. Veldheer is scheduled to become a free agent this month. One good playoff performance can go a long way toward creating opportunities, whether with the Packers or elsewhere in the league.
Age next season: 33.
Initially acquired: Claimed off waivers from New England Patriots, Nov. 27, 2019.
Argument for: The Packers have searched a long time for solid depth at offensive tackle. They traded up in the second round in 2016 to draft Jason Spriggs, but he was waived injured in August and his disappointing tenure with the Packers appears over. Veldheer was acquired only after Alex Light struggled mightily in relief of an injured Bulaga at the San Francisco 49ers in late November. So it’s no small feat that the Packers finally found a backup tackle who could step in on the big stage and play quality snaps. Considering Veldheer’s price tag won’t be high, his combination of experience and versatility — he can play the left or right side — could be a bargain.
Argument against: You never know when Father Time is going to have his say. Yes, Veldheer had a strong playoff showing, but it’s worth wondering whether he could hold up for extended weeks if there were a significant injury to a starter. The Packers could use youth at this position, whether or not they re-sign Veldheer.
Quotable: “He’s an established veteran who’s played a lot of football in this league. So for him, everyone is looking at him like a backup, but he was a starter in this league. He’s played a decade. So for him, he’s seen a lot of ball, he’s been in these tough situations. For him, it’s just kind of getting back on the saddle and going.” – David Bakhtiari