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Packers sign former Lions tackle Rick Wagner as possible Bryan Bulaga successor

Ryan Wood
Packers News
The Detroit Lions released tackle Rick Wagner, a former UW lineman, last week in a cost-cutting move.

GREEN BAY - Bryan Bulaga’s decade with the Green Bay Packers appears finished.

The Packers agreed to terms with former Detroit Lions offensive tackle Rick Wagner on Monday morning, according to NFL Network. Wagner, a former Badgers lineman and fifth-round pick in 2013, will receive a two-year, $11 million contract, according to ESPN.

He’ll slide into the right tackle position Bulaga occupied much of the last decade. The Lions released Wagner last week in a cost-cutting measure, choosing not to pay the $9 million he was due in 2020. In the same way, the Packers’ decision to sign Wagner and let Bulaga leave as a free agent is a financial decision. Bulaga, who started all 16 games last season for just the second time in his career, will garner much more than a $5.5 million annual average on the open market.

In Wagner, the Packers are getting a tackle who has played a lot of snaps over his seven seasons. Between Baltimore and Detroit, Wagner has started 87 of his 102 career games.

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Bulaga’s departure potentially gives the Packers an offensive line of left tackle David Bakhtiari, left guard Elgton Jenkins, center Corey Linsley, right guard Billy Turner and Wagner at right tackle. It’s unclear whether the Packers will re-sign veteran backup Jared Veldheer.

It’s possible the Packers signed Wagner for depth, rather than starting. With Bulaga gone, right tackle joins the team’s list of draft needs. Wagner, who missed the final three games last season with a knee injury, hasn’t played all 16 games since 2015. His injury history and age — Wagner turns 31 in October — will make youth an attractive commodity for the Packers at tackle.

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“Rick is a great guy,” one NFC North scout said. “Super quiet. Hard worker. ... He had some knee issues that he missed time with and could be a concern from a longevity standpoint. I think he's a notch down from Bulaga. He has always struggled with better players. (Minnesota Vikings pass rusher) Danielle Hunter owns him. He's at worst a third OT or lower-level starter.”

When healthy, Wagner increasingly struggled against top pass rushers in Detroit. Preston Smith and Kyler Fackrell beat Wagner with speed rushes for sacks when the Packers hosted the Lions on "Monday Night Football" in October.

Wagner, who played football at West Allis Hale, was also called for seven holding penalties the past two seasons, according to Pro Football Reference. That was an uptick from just two in 2017, his first season with the Lions.

Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal contributed to this report.