Packers: Bryan Bulaga’s injury puts GM Brian Gutekunst in tough spot

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 06: Anthony Zettel
GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 06: Anthony Zettel /

Bryan Bulaga’s injury history and high cap number gives new Green Bay Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst a tough decision to make this offseason.

When healthy, Bryan Bulaga is one of the league’s top tackles. Alongside All-Pro David Bakhtiari, the Packers had arguably the best pass-blocking tackles in the NFL.

Bulaga’s trouble has been staying healthy. He is currently recovering from a torn ACL, which he suffered in Week 9 against the Lions.

Bulaga has been hit with knee injuries throughout his career. A torn ACL sidelined him for the entire 2013 season.

The talented right tackle has only suited up in all 16 regular season games twice in his eight-year career with the Packers.

And this gives GM Brian Gutekunst a tough decision.

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Bulaga turns 29 in March and has struggled to stay healthy. After another significant knee injury, will he be able to play at the same high level next year and beyond?

Considering his cap hit in 2018, the Packers will need him to. According to Over The Cap, Bulaga’s cap number is $8.4 million next season, ninth-highest on the team. If Green Bay decided to cut him, it would save $5.2 million.

But if Gutekunst releases the veteran, he’ll also need to replace him.

And that’s easier said than done.

Current backup Jason Spriggs is also injured, recovering from a dislocated knee. He’s expected to be healthy for OTAs, according to ESPN’s Rob Demovsky, but until then we won’t know how the injury affects his game.

Spriggs’ performances over the past two seasons likely won’t give Gutekunst a ton of confidence he’s ready to take the job.

Maybe Justin McCray will be the answer.

The 25-year-old was asked to play all over the line due to injuries, and he impressed. McCray would be a candidate to fill the right guard spot if Jahri Evans isn’t re-signed.

If McCray’s future is at guard and the Packers decide to move on from Bulaga, adding a tackle in the draft would become a high priority.

The Packers have learned the hard way in recent years that you not only need talented starters across the offensive line, but also good depth. Even if Bulaga is still on the team in 2018, there needs to be adequate depth behind him.

Gutekunst has a number of tough decisions regarding some of the experienced, expensive members of the roster. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Clay Matthews are all among the Packers’ highest earners for 2018.

Nelson’s production dropped without Aaron Rodgers on the field. He turns 33 in May. Cobb has only hit the 1,000-yard mark once in his career and has struggled to find consistency. Matthews has been hit by a number of injuries, will turn 32 before the new season and isn’t the same explosive playmaker he once was.

We can add Bulaga’s name to the mix.

When healthy he’s a key piece to the Packers’ offensive line. But his injury history, age and cap number all needs to be considered this offseason.

Next: Packers: 12 players that need to go this offseason

These are the decisions that could define Gutekunst’s first year as general manager.