Packers: Elgton Jenkins’ future should be at right tackle
By Dillon Graff
Injuries forced a ton of shuffling along the offensive line last season, yet the Green Bay Packers‘ offense never seemed to skip a beat.
A lot of credit has to go to O-line coach Adam Stenavich (who Coach LaFleur hand-picked). Stenavich had many of the linemen cross-training at different positions, because versatility is something this coaching staff values above all else.
Because of so many players having to miss time, the Packers had to mix and match lineups all season long, and oftentimes would be forced to reshuffle during games. No easy feat, much less performing at a well above league average level, which they did all year long.
None of this would have been possible without the likes of Elgton Jenkins, who I think deserves the most credit.
As it stands, Jenkins is the best LG, C, RG, and RT on the roster. Not to mention the second-best option at LT. Having a player that talented and versatile cannot be understated. Jenkins logged time all over the offensive line last season, never so much as skipping a beat.
This allowed the coaching staff to move Jenkins wherever they needed to play the next man up at their best spot. Which poses the question, where is Elgton Jenkins most valuable? Jenkins has already proved to be a Pro-Bowl caliber talent on the offensive line and will assuredly be a part of this team’s long-term plans, but where exactly?
I think the answer to that question is clear, Jenkins’ long-term home is going to be at right tackle. Why is that you might ask? I think the franchise has made it clear with the personnel moves the last two seasons.
Elgton Jenkins’ future with Packers at right tackle?
First off, the team drafted Josh Myers in the second round of this year’s draft. Myers does possess the versatility to play guard, but Green Bay selected Myers with the intention of him becoming a day one starter at center.
Therefore, eliminating the need to have Jenkins shift inside to play center. The team invested premium draft capital in hopes to have the center position covered for the foreseeable future.
Second, the Packers have drafted five other interior linemen in the past two drafts (Jon Runyan Jr., Simon Stepaniak, Jake Hanson, Royce Newman, and Cole Van Lanen).
Runyan proved to be more than capable in relief duty last season, and is someone the team will undoubtedly want to see in an expanded role this coming season. With David Bakhtiari’s health in question entering camp, the Packers will likely give each player opportunities across the line to find the best on-field combo until he returns.
Not to mention, the Packers have returning starter Lucas Patrick in the mix on the interior as well. I think it’s a strong possibility that the team will groom two linemen from this group as cost-effective options on the interior for 2022. The Packers will have to save money wherever possible.
Lastly, fellow Swiss-army knife Billy Turner’s contract restructure allows for the team to get out from under him after this season with a cap savings of approximately $4.1 million, and $4.86 million in dead cap.
Turner was a passable starting guard in year one for the Packers, but proved to be a better right tackle in year two. I want to be clear, I do think the Packers like Billy Turner quite a bit, and value his versatility.
However, this team is cap-strapped like you wouldn’t believe (currently have the lowest projected amount of cap space in 2022). As long as the Packers feel comfortable with two interior linemen from the group they currently have going into next season, I think the cap savings would be something the Packers have to seriously consider next year.
So, with that being said, I would assume it’s unlikely that the Packers go out of their way to extend Billy Turner and offer him big money when a better long-term option at tackle is already on the roster. To get one of your team’s best linemen moved to a premium position, would assuredly return the most value in the long run. In David Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins, the Packers will have the tackle spots covered for the foreseeable future, a luxury for most franchises.
The Packers’ ideal long-term scenario is to have their tackle spots locked down (Bakhtiari/Jenkins), while having the center position locked up (hopefully Myers), and allowing the plethora of interior linemen to battle it out for the last two spots at guard. In the meantime, the Packers also have Billy Turner and Lucas Patrick to help bridge the gap. The current depth on the offensive line is commendable.
To recap, Jenkins is already the best right tackle on the roster (who the team is likely planning to commit to long-term). Green Bay has invested draft capital to the center position (Myers) and the interior offensive line (five IOL drafted in last two classes), and the team can save money by moving on from Turner in 2022.
To me the plan seems pretty clear cut. Remain all-in this year, getting the best five linemen on the field wherever possible. Continue to let the young linemen on the roster cross-train and further develop before moving Jenkins to tackle next season. Thus, creating competition at the guard spots internally which is the most cost-effective route.
Long term I believe this is what’s best for both the team and the player. Elgton Jenkins’ full potential will be unlocked at tackle, and the Packers have some young guards on the roster they think highly of who produce on the interior. Tackle is a lot harder position to find at the NFL level, so the Packers should consider themselves lucky to have Jenkins already on the roster, battle tested on top of it.