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Packers' Bulaga anticipating healthy offseason

-- Two torn ACLs later, Bryan Bulaga has shown he can still hang with some of the league's best pass-rushers.

The Green Bay Packers' long-serving offensive lineman is entering the final year of his contract, but all signs are pointing towards the now-30-year-old -- he celebrated a birthday on Thursday -- being locked and loaded for the 2019 campaign.

"Personally, I feel really good this offseason going into the next season," Bulaga told The Athletic's Michael Cohen on his P:60 Podcast. "The body feels great. I didn’t have to have anything done, so that’s a positive step. Nothing needed to be healed up. That was the best thing—just rest."

Bulaga suffered his second anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in front of a primetime Monday Night Football crowd in 2017, landing him on injured reserve for the remainder of the season and even putting his 2018 season in jeopardy. 

However, after entering training camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, Bulaga was shockingly prepared for the regular-season opener against the Chicago Bears. He went on to play 14 games en route to being one of the routine centerpieces of the Packers' offensive line, even despite the group as a whole surrendering 49 sacks. 

But Bulaga won't have any rehab to keep track of this summer. Instead, he'll be perfectly aligned with every concept the Packers are implementing under the new coaching regime. The team hired Matt LaFleur as their new head coach in January just over a month after firing Mike McCarthy.

"From that standpoint, especially with a new coaching staff coming in, it’s good to get into this with no rehab or anything like that, you just go in and start learning and get adapted to the way the new staff wants to do things."

Bulaga was heavily rumored to be a cut candidate this offseason, even despite his replacement not actively being on the current roster. When he's healthy, he forms one of the league's top offensive tackle tandems with David Bakhtiari securing quarterback Aaron Rodgers' blindside.

Releasing a player of Bulaga's caliber for the sake of what would be preserving $5.8 million dollars in cap space would've been a fool's errand, as well as essentially called for a complete reworking of the right side of the offensive line. Such ideology comes at a time while the right guard position is currently in a state of flux.

"I can’t say that we’ve had any of those discussions this offseason, we haven’t heard anything," Bulaga said regarding such rumors. "I’m anticipating100 percent that I’m going to be ready to go and play for the Green Bay Packers in week one, and that’s the way I’m looking at it."

Bulaga is one of four players remaining from the Packers' Super Bowl roster in 2010, which served as his rookie season. Longtime teammate Clay Matthews signed with the Los Angeles Rams on Tuesday after spending 10 seasons in Green Bay and nine with Bulaga.

As one of the few remaining constants in the midst of the organization's top-to-bottom overhaul, Bulaga's presence gives the Packers' offensive line at least a form of veteran solidity in the midst of the surrounding changes.

"It’s going to be different. I think we all expected that right off the get with the coaching changes. But then as you start seeing guys that you’re with, with Clay for so long and with [Randall Cobb], they start to move on to different places, you start to get that reality check moment that things are going to be a lot different."

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (14) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

porupack's picture

<<Releasing a player of Bulaga's caliber for the sake of what would be preserving $5.8 million dollars in cap space would've been a fool's errand,....>>

Glad you said it, right as it should be said; with all the other positions to fill, and high amount of flux in players, coaches, etc, and the strong likelihood of drafting a replacement OT that needs some time before being a starter, trying to save cap space for such a critical lynchpin and Oline stability, and not have the mentor for the successor is right as you say; fools' errand.
Anyone who says he's washed up, or gonna go down with injury is overly dwelling on fear. Pragmatic and realist you say? Naw. Of course any player might go down. Of course there is injury history. But for the money, the reward over risk is a smart bet, and chucking such a valuable contributer is just dumb. And if he gets injuried, go ahead and rant at me. A GM has to make tough calls, and this is one I'd make if GM time and again.

The TKstinator's picture

No chuck > chuck

Guam's picture

Bulaga is one of the better right tackles in the league when healthy. However I believe the Packers should draft a tackle this year as Bulaga hasn't played 16 games in awhile and Spriggs is not the answer. This is the last year of Bulaga's contract and if he is injured again, I doubt the Packers will want to re-sign him for 2020. Draft a guy this year and get him ready for 2020.

stockholder's picture

Last year it was a pay cut. He refused. This year he's a good player when on the field. Also We need to draft his replacement. 8.3 mil. and I would feel good too. The offensive line position, has the most injuries in the NFL now. Odds are he'll make the IR again. So who goes in? Isn't that; making us all scream protect Rodgers! The history of Rts, and Bulaga, still say it's time to move on. Reinforcement of his status, won't change that. Lang is done. Sitton is done. Brian Bulaga is hanging by a thread. And his 8.3 mil salary, is money the packers cannot waste.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

I like cap space, but there is no way to replace Bulaga for the price involved. It would take using the 12th pick on an OT to make me reasonably comfortable (and depending on how the draft falls that might still be the best option) or using the 30th pick, which only induces moderate stress. I am already not comfortable with the notion that Turner is the answer at any position.

Coldworld's picture

Completely agree. Even at 12 in the draft there is no guarantee of a successful transition to the nfl and even less of certainty if one is looking for an immediate one.

Turner may be an answer at guard who can fill in at tackle. I’d be satisfied if he proves a capable guard. To enter the season with him as starting right tackle supported by a 1st rounder would be brave to the point of insanity as well as potentially undermine Turner potentially and reopening the need for a starting guard. At best, we would need to bring in a lower level FA, eating into any savings and potentially putting us back where we were last year. There are not many good tackles around in FA, and those that are will typically make Baluga look cheap.

Cutting a healthy Baluga for cap space is simply nonsensical unless one is in give up mode, and they clearly aren’t.

Guam's picture

My wish list for the Packers is an OT at #44 and an OG in the 4th round. Turner might be the answer at RG, but I would like an insurance policy and I don't see anyone on the roster now that gives me great confidence.

LambeauPlain's picture

The Packers will likely draft 2 OL prospects this year.

I expect a top talent on day one or two and another with one of the 4 round selections on day 3 where good OL talent can be found by the personnel team doing their jobs.

The O linemen do not have the stat sheet other positions do. So you have to watch the tape and rate them against the competition they were up against.

Bahktiari, Linsley, Tretter, Lang and Sitton all 4th rounders or later.

But the the new arrivals will take some time and Bulaga is an important insurance policy, yes an expensive premium, to protect the franchise's playoff hopes in Rodgers. Bulaga is still one of the top O lineman in the NFL.

Spock's picture

Sensible to keep a top OT. Sure the caveat is "when healthy" but he currently IS healthy and we don't have anyone of equal value to plug into his spot. Keeping him and hopefully drafting another OT for "down the road" makes sense to me.

Skip greenBayless's picture

..and I'm anticipating several people whining about his salary and how we need to get rid of him. Bulaga is worth every damn penny. He's also a 33 like Since 61'. For people who didn't read yesterday's bombshell by Dragon5 that means he's pretty damn good. The best of the best. You don't get rid of guys like that. They are your leaders.

Dash

Dragon5's picture

But given he's in his enemy year, I have no problem drafting his replacement rd1 and cutting him. If he's still on the roster and overcomes the opposing energy inherent this year, then good for him. Antonio Brown, despite the personal / internal strife he created / encountered last year, managed to have a phenomenal season as a 7LP Dragon in a Dog year. Think gray, not black & white.

Coach JV's picture

We have to keep him for now. He's still a great tackle.

My only concern is whether or not he will be nimble enough on his feet for LaF's wide zone scheme? He really hasn't had to travel sideways with the OL much.

I guess time will tell.

Tundraboy's picture

Fantastic that he's coming into season healthy,couldn't come at a better time, but there's absolutely no question they need to draft 2 OL this year. None. Any high pick would have to be a Tackle not a Guard.

PatrickGB's picture

The way FA prices are going, he is well worth it.

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