We once had left tackle David Bakhtiari pegged as the player most likely to get a contract extension from the Green Bay Packers this season. Bakhtiari’s rookie deal expires after the season and because he plays the most valuable position on the offensive line and he’s young, it seemed like a no-brainer that he would be at the top of the Packers’ list.
That is, despite his well-documented shortcomings.
Well, things have changed.
The main thing that has changed is the Packers drafted left tackle Jason Spriggs in the second round of the 2016 draft. As a second-round pick, Spriggs is a future starter. So where does that leave Bakhtiari?
It likely will lead to him signing a big-money free agent contract with another team or returning to the Packers for less money to play another position. There was a rumor before the draft that the Packers view Bakhtiari more as a guard than a tackle.
And that line of thinking might work out just fine, considering both of the Packers’ starting guards — Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang — will also be free agents after the season. Could Bakhtiari replace one of those guys in the starting lineup?
Sure, but only providing another team doesn’t want to pay him as their starting left tackle, which seems pretty unlikely.
For what it’s worth, Bakhtiari said he believes there’s mutual interest in getting a new deal done.
David Bakhtiari acknowledged he's "aware" of contract year, won't let it distract him. Believes interest "mutual" between him and #Packers.
— Ryan Wood (@ByRyanWood) May 26, 2016
We’re sure he’s correct, but the Packers are only going to be interested in a deal if it’s on their terms. If that means their terms are paying Bakhtiari like he’s a guard, then the player’s best interests lie in testing free agency.
Then there’s the injury issue.
Bakhtiari missed the Packers’ final two regular season games and first playoff game with a high ankle sprain. In his absence, Bakhtiari’s value to the 2015 Packers became apparent. However, that’s only because the team wasn’t able to find a capable backup until they inserted J.C. Tretter as Bakhtiari’s replacement.
Frankly, that speaks more to the failings of the personnel department and coaching staff than it does to the greatness of Bakhtiari.
With Spriggs and Tretter, that problem has been remedied for 2016.
In terms of the injury, Bakhtiari suffered five torn ligaments. He did not have offseason surgery, instead opting for rest and rehab.
Bakhtiari said his high sprain Week 15 at Oakland was the type of injury that “changes” an ankle, in that it will now need regular attention. Asked if his ankle is 100 percent, Bakhtiari said it’s healthy enough to “do everything I want to do” as a left tackle. There are no limitations.
Despite there being no limitations, that doesn’t sound good.
We now have to wonder — as do the Packers — if this injury will limit Bakhtiari for the rest of his career or if it will be a recurring problem like right tackle Bryan Bulaga and his balky knees.
In other words, will this guy be the same player he was before?
The good news is, the Packers are now prepared if he isn’t.
A lot of people seem certain Bakhtiari will be the Packers’ left tackle this season. Some even believe he’s the Packers’ left tackle beyond this season.
We’re not certain of either.
The Packers have to take a wait-and-see approach here. There are just too many variables.
It seams to me that Bulaga would make a better Guard than Bakhtiari. If we lose one of the Guards to free agency next year, I could see Bulaga as the replacement, Spriggs at LT, with Bakh and Tretter competing for RT in 2017..
Good post Ice. Yea, Bulaga has to play somewhere, because he’s not going anywhere, and it just may be at guard. Hopefully Bak can stay healthy and sign for a reasonable contract, plus provide the versatility and depth along with Tretter to play LT in case of injury to Spriggs down the road. We don’t want to go through in season tryouts again at LT.
Also, good article Joseph, well thought out and written with substance.
I agree with the above…good article and comments
IF the packers do indeed view him as a guard and want to bring him back, I wouldn’t be surprised if they played him at guard in the pre-season and tested him out. It would be downright foolish to just throw a bunch of money at him and hope an untested player can play guard. That and see how spriggs looks at tackle