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Point of Veau: Packers Have Arguably the Best Pair of Guards in the NFL. Ho-Hum.

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Point of Veau: Packers Have Arguably the Best Pair of Guards in the NFL. Ho-Hum.

Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Josh Sitton. Photo by Corey Behnke of CheeseheadTV.com.

No offense to Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang. It's great that the Green Bay Packers have arguably the best pair of guards in the entire NFL.

In a cumulative grading of every guard in the NFL during the 2013 season by ProFootballFocus.com (premium content), the Packers are the only team in the league to have two rank in the top 14 players at the position.

Truly, hats off to such superb play. Sitton should be in line for his second consecutive Pro Bowl, and Lang's time might be coming sometime in the future.

But let's use the popular discussion starter of creating a football team from scratch, and we could magically have the best pair of players at any position we choose. Guard comes far down the list.

I'd rather have the best pair of defensive ends, defensive tackles, inside linebackers, outside linebackers, cornerbacks or safeties. On offense, I'd rather have the best pair of wide receivers, or bookend tackles protecting the quarterback.

About the only positions I'd prefer less than guard are the best pair of running backs, tight ends or quarterbacks, where having one good one will suffice. And believe me, tight end and running back don't come far behind guard. The New England Patriots showed how lethal their offense could be just a few seasons ago when Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez were both healthy and available.

This isn't an indictment of Sitton and Lang. Obviously, any team would rather get elite play from their guards than a subpar performance.

Rather, this is a criticism of general manager Ted Thompson and one facet of the way he's gone about constructing the current Packers team.

Thompson has actually done a very good job of finding interior offensive linemen. The way he's able to identify athletic college tackles and seeing how their skills will translate to the interior offensive line at the next level is a stroke of genius.

The three current starters on the interior of the Packers offensive line were all tackles in college, including center Evan Dietrich-Smith. Kudos to Thompson for drafting them and the coaching staff for developing them.

Thompson and his scouting and personnel department also have a pretty good track record of drafting wide receivers. It's too bad the Packers haven't had the same luck at other positions, albeit injuries unfortunately have a way of stunting the growth of even the best prospects.

While not in the same category as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have nearly $100 million invested into guards Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph, the Packers sunk $34.95 million into Sitton over six years and $22.06 million into Lang over five years (granted, not every penny is guaranteed).

That's over $55 million bankrolled into a pair of guards, which is limits the amount of money the Packers can spend on players at other positions.

Certainly, the amount of money invested into Aaron Rodgers and Clay Matthews outweighs that of any other players on the team, but the cumulative amount spent on the team's payroll will make it difficult for the Packers to be competitive in free agency, including extending their own free agents.

Certainly, the Packers have enough salary cap space to extend several free agents following the 2013 season, but will it be enough to extend all of them? It's a good bet, the Packers won't be able to sign every player out of a group that includes cornerback Sam Shields, defensive lineman B.J. Raji, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, wide receiver James Jones, quarterback Matt Flynn and linebacker Mike Neal.

That's not to mention the upcoming group a free agents whose contracts expire after the 2014 season, including wide receivers Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson and offensive lineman Bryan Bulaga. The Packers might want to extend their contracts a year ahead of time before their price on the open market becomes cost-prohibitive.

And if the Packers wanted to go out and sign a veteran free agent or two, as has been suggested in some corners of the local media, there's even less moolah available.

So what are the Packers to do? They shouldn't have to apologize for drafting a damn good pair of guards. It's nearly a Catch-22 type of situation.

But if the Packers had developed a better pair of safeties or inside linebackers or defensive ends, maybe they wouldn't have so much invested into their guards, and they'd be getting better bang for their buck at a position that can have a bigger impact on the outcome of the game.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (24) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Jonathan Beaton's picture

Who knows what could have been? Bulaga and Sherrod. Perry and Matthews. Collins and Burnett. Nelson and Cobb. Finley and Quarless...

Nerd's picture

Sherrod will be back, and will compete with Bakhtiari, who will have an offseason in the weight room under his belt. Bulaga will also return. JC Tretter has also returned. This is going to be a very good line, for a long time.

Nick Perry has been coming on too, although he's lately been slowed down with that foot injury. Good news is, the dude can play.

Rather than looking askance at Ted, I'd be looking askance at the trainers.

Morgan Mundane's picture

Ya and I really did see Santa the other night.

Hey you got a guy who got injured for the entire season by playing in a family scrimmage and your hoping he comes back and plays like an all pro?

Sherrod sucked when he was healthy. Remember he and Newhouse were in the dog house early and often for not being able to learn block coverage.

Sitton has a rep for holding and gets caught often as the refs zero in on his play now.

Batari is a good back up but thats all. He doesn't have the size and strngth to be good.

Where are all our 6'6 6'7 330 pound long armed offensive linemen. They are almost all 6'4 with short arms.

Nerd's picture

You're a "glass is not even a quarter full" type guy, clearly.

Sherrod was coming on when he was injured, and keep in mind, has still not had an offseason.

And yeah, Bulaga's gonna come back strong for another 10 years.

Morgan Mundane's picture

Ya if Bulaga can just get buy the family scrimage. Sherrod is lazy both mentally and physically and has impressed no one, zilch since day one except maybe you.
Time to wake up and get it, this team is not talented and Ted will not spend a dime on free agents. His pay as you go system aint working when you let pro bowlers like Wells and Jenkins go to save a dime.

Nerd's picture

lol

Derek in CO's picture

TJ Lang was pretty awful a few years ago, kudos for him for his improvement. I think we all know how good Sitton has become, he deserves a Pro Bowl start. Both guys have really made our running game something to fear.

Nerd's picture

Lang has always been solid. He had an off second year, because he missed TC after wrist surgery.

Corwin's picture

Lang was also a defacto DL for the jumbo packages for his 2nd year, wasn't he?

C's picture

Only because he started at defensive line collegiately and the Packers were injury riddled at the defensive line that year. The organization was never serious about playing him on the DL.

C's picture

If I recall the story correctly he really wasn't, 'solid', until Sitton showed up at his doorstep and told him he needed to stop partying, treat his body right and dedicate himself to becoming an actual pro. His ascension began after Sitton called him out, and Lang responded.

Nerd's picture

He slid over to LT his rookie year and handled Jared Allen at the dome.

He slumped his second year, because he couldn't lift or practice after the wrist surgery.

C's picture

Possibly, but there was a well written story by the MJS a few years back quoting Lang about Sitton's blunt discussion being Lang's turning point in his pro career.

jmac34's picture

I could definitely see Jones, Raji, Flynn, and Neal all not coming back next year and I can't see EDS being too expensive to keep. As far as the 2014/15 FA are concerned, I really can't see how Bryan Bulaga could be extended at this point considering he has missed so much time.

Joe's picture

Don't want to jinx the guard situation for 2014. But when was the last time Sitton or Lang were injured for an extended period of time.

TT could address that by drafting another veristal lineman in 2014 draft. Maybe even as high as first round.... Just a thought

Jonathan Beaton's picture

Take it easy Bob McGinn..

C's picture

I really like your writing in general, Brian, but this seems like a really odd way to go about, in essance, getting to criticize TT for failing to draft and develop good safeties or linebackers (or generally a position that impacts the game at a higher level). I really don't get it. There's less than $14 million in guarantees with slowly escalating salaries for both guards that don't really hurt from a cap perspective. And they can both be cut prior to the life of their contracts withou noticible salary-cap implications.

I agree with the notion that having a pro-bowl caliber duo at another high-impact position would be better, just don't get the way you went about getting to the point in this article.

The TKstinator's picture

Back in my exotic dancing days, I was widely known as having the best pair of....
Oops!
Am I on the wrong forum again?

TommyG's picture

...and if we had a pair of great safties and lousy OL we would be cursing TT for not finding good guards. There is your catch.

jeremy's picture

A Pro Bowl Safety won't protect #12.

Icebowler's picture

I gave TT a pair of cakes for Christmas...one to have and one to eat.

The TKstinator's picture

Nicely done sir.

Bearmeat's picture

I'm actually quite happy with both Sitton's and Lang's contracts. Not a bad price for dudes that are going to be opening up HUGE holes for Lacy for years. And the OT/C positions should be solid next year (assuming health). This is going to be a very good OL for the next few years.

I'm more upset about the contract extension TT gave Hawk in 2010, and Burnett and B Jones last offseason. Our ILBs and safeties suck and that HAS to be addressed in order for the defense to return to form. Wouldn't mind those three (and Tramon)all walking unless their deals are made more team friendly.

I'd also let J Jones, Neal, Raji and Pickett test the market. If they come back on team-friendly deals, great. If not, none of them are worth breaking the bank for.

Money needs to be saved for Shields, Cobb and Nelson. And if Perry plays well in the first half of next year, he should be resigned to a team friendly deal too. When is Boykin's contract up?

marcopo's picture

There is a substantial link between offensive and defensive effectiveness. Many things have changed in the NFL, but the one maxim that still hold true, is that the war is won in the trenches. The Packers are set on the offensive line. However the defensive line is a problem. Raji, while having the ability to be special, isn't. Pickett is old. Jolly is questionable. There is only one big body worth talking about in the draft. Jones and Worthy are not there, yet. We have big problems at safety. Burnett has had a lousy year. Perhaps, Hyde can be moved to safety. Finally, we need speed at ILB. The other huge issue on defense is that is highly difficult to draft a safety or DLman who is effective out of the box. TT will have to re-think "draft and develop",

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