Green Bay Packers: Bryan Bulaga’s value in Green Bay

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 08: Aaron Rodgers #12 and Bryan Bulaga #75 of the Green Bay Packers reacts against the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field on December 8, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 08: Aaron Rodgers #12 and Bryan Bulaga #75 of the Green Bay Packers reacts against the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field on December 8, 2014 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

As far as players on the Green Bay Packers goes, right tackle Bryan Bulaga takes a lot of flack from fans and, in my opinion, most of it is unwarranted. If the Packers look to bounce back in 2019, Bulaga will play an integral part in doing so.

Bryan Bulaga has been a staple at right tackle for the Green Bay Packers for a number of seasons now.

But in recent years he has come under fire from fans in regards to his play on the field and even more so for injuries.

However, heading into what will be his ninth year in the NFL, Bulaga continues to be one the best in the league at the highly coveted tackle position.

Finding good tackles is difficult

In order to be a top-tier tackle in the NFL, it takes a rare combination of size, speed, athleticism and technique.

Tackles need to be strong enough to go one-on-one with defensive ends or defensive tackles, while also being able to work well in open space against much quicker edge rushers and linebackers.

To be effective against a wide variety of defenders it requires great lateral movement, quick feet and good hand position to gain control of the defender without being susceptible to holding calls, amongst other traits as well.

There’s a reason that tackles are a premium position in the NFL, they are a rare breed of football players and when you find a good one you hold on to them.

Bulaga on the field

Although Bulaga may not be as quick as he once was, he is still just 29-years-old and possesses many of the desirable attributes that were discussed above.

Bulaga still gets off the line very well at the point of the snap to put himself into a good position against the defender, and he always demonstrates excellent technique with his hand position.

In 14 games this season, Bulaga was called for just five holding penalties, roughly once every three games. Exhibiting that he is still a difficult matchup for just about any defender.

As a result of his on-field performances, PFF has Bulaga ranked as the 20th overall tackle in 2018. Additionally, Bulaga was ranked second amongst all tackles by ESPN in pass-blocking win rate.

Bulaga’s injury history

Moving on from his play, perhaps the biggest knock on Bulaga is that “he is injured all the time”. However if we take a look back at recent years, he’s consistently been on the field.

If we take 2017 out of the equation where Bulaga missed 11 games due to a torn ACL, he has missed just seven starts since the 2014 season.

This year in particular, Bulaga was on the field for over 72 percent of Green Bay’s offensive snaps and was top 10 on the team in total snap count.

Yes, Bulaga has experienced some injuries during his time in Green Bay but that amount of time has been exaggerated by many. He works hard to make sure that he misses as little time as possible and that an injury doesn’t affect his play.

Final year of Bulaga’s contract

The 2019 season will be the last of Bulaga’s five-year, $33.75 million contract. At this point we don’t know what 2020 and beyond will hold for Bulaga and the Green Bay Packers.

Next season, according to Spotrac, Bulaga will earn a base salary of $5.8 million and account for $8.35 million against the Packers’ salary cap.

For whatever reason, if Green Bay thought that cutting Bulaga was the way to go, it would be relatively cheap and would result in just $1.6 million against the team in dead cap space.

But for an offensive line that already struggled as a unit in 2018, who would replace him?

Other options at tackle

Internally the Packers are lacking options to fill the role if Bulaga were to be gone. Jason Spriggs has been inconsistent at best and although they have versatility from someone like Justin McCray, he’s shown that he is not ready to be an NFL starter.

As far as free agency goes, overall it is an underwhelming class at tackle. Someone like Jared Veldheer, currently of the Denver Broncos, may be one of the better options but he isn’t at Bulaga’s skill level and would be a downgrade for the Packers.

Now if we look ahead to the draft, taking Jonah Williams out of Alabama at the 12th pick would be intriguing. He appears to be a can’t-miss prospect and could start day one for the Packers.

Unfortunately, most likely he will be gone by the time Green Bay is on the clock. But if available, drafting Williams and moving Bulaga to right guard is something to consider.

Another tackle that could start day one in Green Bay is Greg Little out of Ole Miss. As of now he is projected to go somewhere in the middle of the first round.

In recent years it appears as if injuries have become the norm for Bryan Bulaga, but he’s started many more games than he has missed.

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Bulaga, paired with David Bakhtiari, form one of the better tackle duos in the NFL. Cutting ties with him this offseason makes little sense considering how valuable he is to the Green Bay Packers offensive line.