Cory's Corner: Be Honest About Bakh

There are so many questions surrounding one of the best left tackles in the last six years. 

This is another red flag for David Bakhtiari. 

The Packers placed their All-Pro left tackle on the physically unable to perform list before training camp starts on Wednesday morning. That’s the second straight season that Bakhtiari will start the year  on the PUP list, before being activated off the list on Nov. 10 in 2021. 

Bakhtiari tore his ACL in practice on Dec. 31, 2020. Ever since then, it seems like it’s been one step forward and two steps back for the nine-year pro. Our own Aaron Nagler in an exclusive interview with Bakhtiari, found out that his knee was drained “around 15 times throughout the season.” That’s a lot of times to get your knee drained in 17 weeks. 

Granted, this could completely be a precautionary measure, just making sure Bakhtiari is right and not wanting to risk anything in training camp. Then again, if Bakhtiari isn’t right, training camp would be a great time to see if his knee can respond. 

If the knee cannot respond in basic drills in the early portion of training camp, that’s not a good sign. Because how far behind the eight ball will Bakhtiari be when he is cleared from the PUP list? He won’t be in good physical condition and will need a week or two just to get back up to speed. 

Unfortunately, the Packers will be forced to look long and hard in the mirror. Nobody wants to tell the truth, especially when it comes to uncertainty around one of the best left tackles in the game three years ago. 

How long is Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst willing to wait? Is he willing to wait until November if Bakhtiari’s knee doesn’t respond before then? Is it time to seriously start thinking about putting Bakhtiari on a pitch count with regards to the number of snaps? He turns 31 in September and it’s not going to get any easier for his body to recover from serious injuries. 

You don’t want to immediately gear the conversation toward money, but if Bakhtiari cannot play, that’s what conversations will be centered on. He has a dead cap hit of $35.8 million this year and $23.1 million in 2023.

If Bakhtiari cannot play at his All-Pro level, will he be OK with taking a pay cut that will be equal to the production that he can put forth? That’s a conversation that needs to happen this year if he cannot get back to 100 percent. It’s a conversation that both sides obviously don't want to happen, but it’s something that is an absolute must. 

Basically, this comes down to honesty. Don’t try to hide this problem. Because now that he’s on the PUP list again, it isn’t going away anytime soon. 

 

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Cory Jennerjohn is a graduate from UW-Oshkosh and has been in sports media for over 15 years. He was a co-host on "Clubhouse Live" and has also done various radio and TV work as well. He has written for newspapers, magazines and websites. He currently is a columnist for CHTV and also does various podcasts. He recently earned his Masters degree from the University of Iowa. He can be found on Twitter: @Coryjennerjohn

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6 points

Comments (38)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
NickPerry's picture

July 26, 2022 at 06:30 am

I understand they did the "Clean Up" of the knee last year but I'm really starting to wonder now myself if Bakhtiari didn't actually sustain another injury to his knee last year vs Detroit. Whatever the case is it just sucks.

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BradHTX's picture

July 26, 2022 at 06:59 am

It does. Wish I could say otherwise, but I don’t expect to ever see Bakh on the field again. I strongly suspect we have an injury retirement before the season starts.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 27, 2022 at 12:26 pm

Brad, that is almost exactly the opposite of what Gutekunst said. He says they are "cautiously optimistic" about the opener.

I expect to see Bakhtiari play for us this season, but with all the practices and games, etc., you have to have Plan B., and IMO, that's Nijman. He should be the guy that we plan on taking the majority of the 1100 snaps at LT this season. Whatever we get out of Bakhtiari is gravy. Expensive gravy.

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Coldworld's picture

July 26, 2022 at 07:21 am

At this point I think that it’s time to plan as if Bakh is not coming back unless the team knows something that we do not, and it looks to me as if they do not have any clearer picture. It is a blow, but that is football. Time to take what we have and do the best with it that we can.

If Bakh can pass a physical at some point, I don’t think the question is at what level he can play but if he can. If he does manage to get back, for how long is he likely to stay healthy would be the issue. Snap counts for a LT aren’t particularly workable and a suspect knee only takes one. This likely isn’t a pain issue but a physical capability one.

From a contract standpoint, the team is stuck with it, so there is not much Gute or Ball can do in terms of freeing up cap. Since he’s on PUP he won’t take up a roster space in season if he remains out. He’s under no obligation to alter his contract: it was a risk the team took to retain a premier player and freely bargained for. Again, any adjustments would be a bonus, not something we should count on.

The Packers have to move on with the roster and cap we have and maybe he will surprise us as a bonus, but not one to rely on happening or being sustained if it does.

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Slim11's picture

July 26, 2022 at 07:59 am

I think the issue might be is he willing to continue playing in addition to the question of if he can play. Having a knee drained 15 times in 17 weeks is a big red flag to me. It sounds as if the stability of the knee is the big question going into TC. Hopefully, this is just a precautionary measure and we’re all pleasantly surprised in a couple of weeks.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 26, 2022 at 02:58 pm

Coldworld, I put some numbers to that.

The deal Bakhtiari signed was actually an extension of his previous deal, in 2020. For all intents and purposes, we're in the 3rd year of that deal already. He counts $13 million against the cap.

After this season, his cap hit jumps to $29 million but the dead money is only $23 million. I think there is zero chance we pay him $29 million in 2023. This is his last season here.

None of this can be avoided. Putting him on PUP doesn't count against our roster. If he actually plays for us, that'd be great. It is always possible that he's not going to recover well enough to play NFL football anymore. That happens all the time.

The Packers need a good LT on the field. I think it'll be Nijman, and hopefully Walker will show enough you could stick him in there. I think Rhyan will start at RG and Newman will start at RT.

At some point, hopefully, Bakhtiari and/or Jenkins will come back and help. In the meantime, pray for no injuries to the offensive line since we're already -2 before we start.

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Guam's picture

July 26, 2022 at 07:40 am

The fact that the Packers let Turner go indicated to me that they thought Bahktiari would be back and fully healthy. That means the Docs were telling the Packers that the knee is structurally sound and they expected a full recovery. Unfortunately there seems to be some sort of soft tissue injury or irritation that is not healing properly and keeping Bahk from playing. How long that situation continues is anybody's guess. A really crappy outcome for both Bahktiari and the Packers.

My guess is that the Packers ride with the situation for most of this season to see if the soft tissue injury finally heals. If not, Bahk has played his last game with the Packers and probably in his career. They are going to take the cap hit either way as Bahk has zero incentive to renegotiate.

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jcod3's picture

July 26, 2022 at 07:51 am

Regretfully, the Packers have no choice but to wait things out. Walking away is not an option because of dead cap issues. I am resolved to the idea that it may actually take another year to find out if Bakh can play again. 😕

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

July 26, 2022 at 08:34 am

Thankfully the Packers have excelled at building the Oline.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

July 26, 2022 at 08:17 am

Years ago I had an older boss repeatedly state "timing is everything". Could there have been better timing for David Bakh to sign his extension? Unbelievable!

While he is a great person, teammate, & a very good LT I'm not going to stress about it. Injuries happen and the Packers have a lot of talent invested on the OL. Regardless of Bakh they will be fine. Yes, they will struggle against the Vikings DL (Hunter & Zadarius), and some teams early until Jenkins come back but that is the nature of the sport. Who is the next man up? If the Pack is going to be more of a running game anyway this year his replacement might be better at that phase of the game vs Bakh.

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 26, 2022 at 08:19 pm

"Yes, they will struggle against the Vikings DL (Hunter & Zadarius)"

Ah yes, those paragons of NFL healthiness!

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RCPackerFan's picture

July 26, 2022 at 08:44 am

I just hope we can get Bakhtiari back playing again. Our OL misses him. The last 2 playoff losses I think can be on the fact that Bakhtiari was not playing. Him no playing affects the whole OL and offense. And then obviously missing both him and Jenkins really hurts.

Hopefully we can get some young guys going pretty fast though. We drafted 3 guys who can play OT. We may need all 3 of them to play OT.
I do find it interesting that on Packers.com they have Rhyan and Walker listed as T's. Zach Tom as OL. I do find that part interesting. May mean something, may mean nothing. But I think this year we are going to be counting Rhyan and Tom to be ready to play. When drafted i was thinking Rhyan would be OG and Tom would be OT. But it could be the other way. Either way they added depth to the OL. Hopefully they are ready to go though.

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marpag1's picture

July 26, 2022 at 12:48 pm

[UPDATE: I answered my own questions in the comment below, but I'll leave this here, just so people can understand the replies.]

To be honest, I don't really get how the PUP list is helpful to anyone here. It is my understanding that PUP list players in preseason DO COUNT against the 90-man preseason roster - the roster exemption only kicks in at the start of the regular season. So it's not like the Packers will be able to bring in an extra body during preseason because Bakh is on the PUP.

If this is about the Packers wanting to "err on the side of caution," how does putting a guy on PUP actually help with that? Why can't the team just hold the guy out of the drills or the parts of practice that are a bit dangerous? But if the guy is on PUP, then it is REQUIRED that the guy cannot practice. So the team kind of ties its hands that way. The PUP guy can't practice, even if you want him to, as long as he is on PUP.

And if you put him on the PUP and then take him off, you can't put him back on the PUP again.

So why put Bakh on PUP? What is the advantage?

PUP can only be used for football related injuries, so the Packers are already admitting that they are on the hook for Bakh's injury. Do you put a guy on PUP so that the player can't claim that training camp made his injury worse, and that might affect the settlement? I dunno...

Someone with actual brains should help me out here. Maybe TGR's got the grey matter for it. All I really know is that this ain't good.

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dobber's picture

July 26, 2022 at 08:59 am

Have they even had their initial physicals, yet?

I think this isn't much more than indicating guys they think might not practice week 1.

I expect most of the guys listed--and several participated in minicamp--will be on the field early. Several are vets who don't need a lot of practice time.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 26, 2022 at 02:24 pm

Very true, dobber. For all we know, these are just guys that they want to take a closer look at before we activate them and have them at practice. With a few exceptions, these may be cautionary moves.

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marpag1's picture

July 26, 2022 at 12:45 pm

After taking a look at the rules, I guess the rather simple answer is that players can only be designated for PUP at the outset of TC. If they practice even once, they are no longer eligible for the PUP.

So if that's the case, then it would make sense.

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mnbadger's picture

July 26, 2022 at 01:00 pm

thanks for the clear answer on PUP. this makes the most sense. GPG!

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LLCHESTY's picture

July 26, 2022 at 08:30 pm

That's what I wondered this weekend. I thought the rookies showed up Friday and the vets yesterday. So maybe the PUP list is just a CYA thing until they can do a more involved exam of the knee. That's a lot of guys to give physicals to so maybe anything wrong, no matter how small,is red flagged and once everybody is done they'll go back and look at the problems.

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dobber's picture

July 26, 2022 at 09:01 am

GAR!!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 27, 2022 at 06:25 am

The PUP makes all the sense in the world, as I think you realized after reading your reply comment below.

1. There is absolutely nothing GB can do to Bakh's contract to reduce his 2022 cap number. Just before the new league year, GB converted Bakh's $9.5M roster bonus plus $2.08M or his $3.2M base salary (leaving the vet min. in place, in other words) to a signing bonus. Even if Bakh gave that $11.58M back, it wouldn't count on GB's cap until 2023, IIRC. And he is under no obligation to return any of it. The only money he can earn this year is his base plus his $600K game active bonus, and he doesn't earn Game Active bonuses if he isn't active. GB can't release Bakh this season as that would reduce their cap space by almost $10M, requiring them to "touch" Lowry (release is $5.45M for Lowry and a restructure could be about $4M) and/or a Lazard restructure worth $2.4M.

2. So, put him on the PUP. Yes, GB loses the 90th player, but I am not worried about losing TE Wolf. It does not count against the 53 man roster and GB retains his rights. He is under contract for 2022, 2023 and 2024.

3. If Bakh regains his health and his all-pro form in 2022, that's a home run and most questions end. If he can't play at all in 2022, then GB should wait until March of next year to see how he is doing [bear with me here]. If he still can't play next March, then decisions have to be made (see point 5).

4. If he plays in 2022 but not as well as in the past, then GB could go in several directions, as could he. If Bakh can pass a physical in March of 2023, GB could trade him for whatever they can get or release him, taking a $23M dead money hit but gaining almost $6M in cap space if done pre-June. They could release him before his roster bonus for 2023 is due while designating him as a June release, in which case GB would take $11.56M dead (and another $11.56M dead in 2024) but save $17.5M on the cap for 2023. GB could ask for a pay cut; how much would depend on how well he played in 2022, and perhaps his prognosis.

5. If he isn't healthy by March of 2023, things depend on what the thinking is on his long-term health. If he can pass a physical but only is able to play as a backup, he may decide to retire. That might be considered a voluntary retirement, in which case GB arguably could ask for the return of his signing bonus prorations for 2023 and 2024, a total of $23M. Might be a decision made by an arbiter. GB might not even ask for it back. [Bakh might get tired of trying to rehab this injury enough to perform as a pro athlete or he might want to be able to walk when he is 55). If he can't play at all or pass a physical, the injury was sustained during a club-sponsored event (a practice in the 2020 season), so GB would have no right to a refund. Players can always voluntarily return money.

TL/DR: There is nothing GB can do to with Bakh to help the cap in 2022. Either he can play (even if it is later in the season) or he can't play. If he can play well, great. Keeping Bakh only costs a roster spot on the 90-man roster. They will revisit these issues before his $9.5M roster bonus is on March 20, 2023. GB might keep him if he is still elite or close to it and AR returns. Otherwise, GB might release him, trade him, or he might retire. It is unlikely that GB ends up avoiding taking a large dead money hit in the area of $23M ($34M in essence if he can't play this year either), at which point it is just a matter how they divvy up the pain.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 27, 2022 at 12:01 pm

About freakin' time, TGR. What the hell took you so long?

This confirms a lot of what I thought. I'm still wondering if this is affected in any way by a flat out retirement, but that's not something that'll happen before next March.

If I'm the guy running the show, Nijman is my starting LT. I'm hoping Walker shows enough to keep him on the 53 as his backup. I'm hoping at some point he contributes, but in the big picture, he's a 30 year old who has already made millions of dollars and will be financially secure for the rest of his life after football, whenever that starts.

I'm not trying to overstate this, but this is why I've been at Defcon 4 regarding the offensive line, and now I'm going to Defcon 3. The single thing that could derail this season the quickest is an offensive line that can't protect the QB or open holes in the run game. Our two best OL aren't available. And what happens if Nijman gets injured? Then we have a rookie or FA protecting our franchise's blindside. That's not desirable.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

July 27, 2022 at 10:55 pm

Priorities. My eldest son came home from Utah for a few weeks because he found a couple of weeks during which he can work remotely. So, I've been spending some time with him. I was feeling guilty not writing a full article about Bakh and the possibilities, but I have no regrets.

*Yeah, I know you were just kidding. Nice to leave 'em wanting more, though!

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dobber's picture

July 26, 2022 at 08:52 am

We would like a candid assessment, but information is at a premium in the NFL. There's no benefit to the Packers sharing any more than they have.

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ricky's picture

July 26, 2022 at 09:18 am

It seems likely the team is being having honest, open and frank discussions with both Bakhtiari and his doctors as to his status. Are they going to share this information with the public? Very doubtful. Why should they? This is on a "need to know" basis, and we don't need to know. We'd certainly like to have more info, but it's not going to happen. Hopefully, the team has contingency plans in place in case of Bakhtiari not being able to start for a few games.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 26, 2022 at 11:44 am

Or never playing again.

Once Upon A Time, Nick Collins was a real good safety for us. He hurt his neck. After much medical treatment, tests, discussions about "stenosis" , etc., the GM of the Packers said "No".

The decision about Bakhtiari being able to play football for the Packers again will not be made by the doctors, or even Bakhtiari himself, it'll be made by the GM. I'm not sure how the $60 million guaranteed would be resolved at that point.

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Coldworld's picture

July 27, 2022 at 08:43 am

The Packers can survive the cash. After this season, the cap starts to benefit from his release if he’s not contributing. At this point, given the cause of the injury and perhaps exacerbation In Detroit was football, they may as well write off the guarantee as a cost of doing business.

Arguably thIfis was a poorly structured deal in that it gave the team no out at all regardless of availability, but that’s what they bargained for and maybe what it took to sign him (though I think they could have secured some protection for a complete bust). It’s also possible that they took out insurance separately (I would have in any watertight guarantee if that term and size, especially for an older player).

In reality, they can eat the financial loss from the guarantee that without too much pain. The cap considerations will be more relevant by next year as the payback on other things starts to bite and Bakh becomes a source of cap savings if he leaves. Until then, his cap hit likely means we limit our camp number to 89 and carry him even if we knew he was done and I don’t think we’d want him to retire and accelerate any hit. He just sits on PUP unless he gets healthy and that’s probably the best of a bad situation for both parties until the next league year.

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stockholder's picture

July 26, 2022 at 09:45 am

15 knee Drains. 2 years of frustration. Age= He'll never be that All-Pro again. The NFL will constantly drug test him. (For Pain Killers) Wish all you want. But it's time to move on.

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Spock's picture

July 26, 2022 at 01:39 pm

I've had 5-6 knee drains and eight knee surgeries (including having my kneecap removed in surgery 5 or 6) and if the swelling can be contained Bahk won't need a lot of pain killers. I went from walking with a cane to riding a bike in a month when I found something to reduce the swelling. I wrote about it in Nag's interview with Bahk and got a lot of down votes, but there ARE solutions out there, especially for a younger man like Bahk.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 26, 2022 at 02:35 pm

stockholder, moving on could mean a couple of different things and involve significant financial considerations, but I think your core point "He'll never be that All-Pro again", is correct. The best case for the Packers is that at some point in 2022, Bakhtiari is healthy enough to practice and play, because that will mitigate some of the estimated $60 million he was guaranteed when he signed his deal

Worst case, Bakhtiari never plays for us again because his body can't handle it and we've burned money for nothing. The lawyers can figure how how much.

Predicted Case: Bakhtiari is active on the 53 at some point this season, so we get some return on the $13 million he's getting paid this year. We can make some really hard choices at the end of the season. Nijman is our de facto starting LT.

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porupack's picture

July 26, 2022 at 11:12 am

I agree with others here, that the staff doesn't need to be public (or in your words, honest) about pre-season, until the team actually needs to make a decision. Then, they'll let us know by the 53 man roster.

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LambeauPlain's picture

July 26, 2022 at 11:15 am

Constant fluid buildup in a surgically repaired knee is emblematic of other structural and/or debris issues in the joint.

Joint surgeries are very often effective...but as my doctor tells me, the knee is never the same (as healthy or sound). But the bad news is the reconstruction can fail too, causing a cascade of structural issues around the repaired tissue.

I hope not. But this is not foreshadowing quick return to the lineup. Not good.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 26, 2022 at 11:39 am

You can handle the honesty.

1. The contract extension has worked out poorly for the Packers. It was a gamble that we could squeeze a few more years out of a Pro Bowl LT who wasn't 30 yet. Then he immediately took a bad injury. We're trying to mitigate the loss as best we can and if he can eventually play, that helps. Otherwise, we've come up craps on this.

2. It's officially a mistake to regard him as our starting LT. IMO, Yosh Nijman is our starting LT until somebody better is available.

3. Capwise, Bakh costs us about $13 million this year. I do not know how all the future guaranteed money is affected if he retires or is physically unable to play but $60,000,000 was guaranteed. Uggggghhh.

4. As a guy who likes win/win/win scenarios, this is about as ugly as it gets. Our best hopes are that Nijman can play well so we don't miss Bakhtiari as much on the field. The financial stuff is going to need to be figured out by people smarter than me.

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THESZOTMAN1's picture

July 26, 2022 at 01:46 pm

I've had a BAD feeling about Bakh for some time. Now I have a worse feeling.
One thing for sure, IMHO: This offense is now in the (very capable) hands of Adam Stenavic.
And perhaps the right side of the offensive line will NOT have the biggest battles in camp.
The Szotman

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T7Steve's picture

July 26, 2022 at 01:48 pm

All I know is that once you're in the knee club you're always in the knee club. Took me a year to start feeling better. Still have swelling on rainy days. Sometimes chunks break off and float around grinding or lock up the knee. It was always better when I do something athletic. Ski, play basketball, hike, run, anything, It doesn't bother me till after. It will take him time to get used to it and admit he's a member of the club, then he'll be ok. I pray, because we see what happens in the playoffs when you don't have pro-bowl caliber people on the line.

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THESZOTMAN1's picture

July 26, 2022 at 01:49 pm

ps- no disrepsect to Wendell F.'s article.
The Szotman

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zoellner25's picture

July 26, 2022 at 02:29 pm

I'm scared we've seen the last of the player we know as All-Pro 69.

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Jaqu’eau's picture

July 26, 2022 at 03:32 pm

While i find the questions and points raised to be relevant, I can’t imagine that the parties involved are not being honest with each other. And, I can’t imagine that anyone who is involved in the decision to place him on PUP, is not equally disappointed. I am sorry, but the fans are not required to be kept in the loop at this level of personnel decision making. Plus there’s probably a lot of uncertainty still at this point. As far as guaranteed money is concerned, thems the breaks. Bakhtiari far outperformed his rookie contract, so he’ll make it on the back end. High injury risk rates are the reason GMs wanted to keep guaranteed money out of the NFL, and why players so desperately want it.

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Fubared's picture

July 26, 2022 at 07:46 pm

My two cents. I disagree with the comments that the Packers don't have to say anything. I think they are saying something. Bact can't play period. Thus he is on the pup because he can't go and they know it. Going forward who knows.
Money wise this is a huge mess. I don't know if they did a medical buyout do they recoup some of the money from the league.
As far as I'm concerned he is done so if he comes back that's a big plus. Team gave away to much for a 30 year old

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