Before the 2020 NFL draft most Packer fans expected the Packers to draft an offensive tackle. The Packers had lost talented but often injured Bryan Bulaga in free agency. No other Packer lineman had shown proficiency at the position, although Billy Turner had spot started for the Broncos and Packers with mixed results.
When the Packers waited until the sixth round to draft an offensive lineman, and then quickly announced that Jon Runyan projected as a guard, there were a few pundits that joined fans in scratching their heads, wondering if Brian Gutekunst and company knew their own team. Two more interior lineman picks that followed at the end of the draft changed head scratching to hair pulling. After all the Packers had a rookie guard with All-Pro potential, another solid guard starter returning from injury, and two decent replacements in Patrick and Turner. Who was going to play tackle? And heaven forbid, what if Bakhtiari goes down? Packer fans could see the Packer’s season rolling over in the sea like the Titanic if that scenario played out. Surely a free agent signing or trade was necessary to right this ship. And then the Packers made their free agent splash; Rick Wagner. Oft-injured Detroit castoff. Needless to say fans failed to organize a parade for that move.
Half way through the 2020 season and the unthinkable did occur to these Packers. Not only has Bakhtiari been down for multiple weeks, Lane Taylor was lost for the season early. Reshuffling has become not just a pregame precaution, but an in game necessity. But not one fan rant or pundit post can point a credible finger at the Packer brain trust and say they blew it with their O-line strategy.
Elgton Jenkins has perennial All-Pro talent. Lucas Patrick is a competitive scrapper. Turner can play tackle. Corey Linsley excels at his position. Even rookie Jon Runyan looks legitimate in his spot duties.
The line is playing so well that Gutekunst may have more flexibility in the off season than even he anticipated. Jenkins is not only an excellent guard, he has played well at left tackle. Turner has been adequate at both tackle spots. Wagner has impressed fans and coaches, although he now has a knee injury. With multiple options for both tackle spots it is possible that Gutekunst might see resigning Bakhtiari as an unneeded luxury. Bakhtiari would command top dollar at a premium position. With the salary cap taking a nose dive next year the Packers may be unable to meet his demands. Losing him would give the Packers a third round compensatory draft pick in 2022 which would be tradable once it is confirmed. It also gives the Packers another year to draft and develop more lineman. It could be argued that the Packers have more quality depth in their current offensive line than they have ever had in Packer history.
Free agency is an eternity away at the moment, but both Gutekunst and Packer fans are sleeping easier knowing the O-line development plan is paying dividends in 2020.