What Do the Packers Do With David Bakhtiari?

The Green Bay Packers’ offensive line earned a spot among PFF’s top-six units in pass-blocking. Notably, they also ranked among the top-five teams with the fewest sacks allowed, even though All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari only played in the first game of the season.

Rasheed Walker seamlessly stepped into Bakhtiari’s shoes, earning the second-highest pass-blocking grade among tackles in the 2022 draft class. Walker allowed only four quarterback hits throughout the entire season. On the opposite end, Zach Tom emerged as PFF’s sixth-highest-graded offensive lineman in run blocking in 2023, distinguishing himself as the top run blocker from his draft class. He claimed PFF’s highest grade in zone runs within the same draft class.

With Walker and Tom showcasing starting-caliber performances, the Packers have two formidable tackles until their contracts expire in 2025. However, the team faces a crucial decision. Bakhtiari is in a contract year next season, and the star left tackle has injury concerns. He tore his ACL on New Year’s Eve in 2020 and missed 16 games in 2021 and 2023. He also missed six games in 2022. Bakhtiari will be 33 in September, and Green Bay may hesitate to extend him after he missed 38 games in the past three years.

In all cut-or-trade scenarios involving Bakhtiari before or after June 1, the Packers would save $20 million in cap space but incur a $19 million dead cap hit, per Over the Cap. Restructuring his contract would yield no savings, but a potential extension could offer up to $15 million in savings. The catch lies in the need for absolute confidence in Bakhtiari’s health for a starting role, a certainty the Packers may never attain.

Bakhtiari has a $40 million cap hit in 2024, so Green Bay must find a reasonable way to mitigate that. The Packers and Bakhtiari may explore the possibility of reaching an agreement on a pay cut, akin to their approach with Aaron Jones at the beginning of the 2023 season. Such a move could free up valuable cap space, allowing for potential signings in free agency. It would also address the priority of extending Jordan Love during the offseason.

In the best-case scenario, Bakhtiari would be healthy enough to start throughout the year, requiring the Packers to shake up their offensive line. With Bakhtiari returning to left tackle, Walker’s status becomes a focal point. Considering Tom’s impressive performance as a top-15 tackle per PFF, the Packers may move Tom back to the bench unless they shift him to guard.

While potentially filling the void left by Jon Runyan Jr.’s impending free agency, this move would also open up the right tackle spot for Walker. However, given his effectiveness in that position, the Packers may hesitate to move Tom off right tackle. If Bakhtiari fails to meet expectations regarding his availability, Green Bay can revert to a lineup featuring Walker and Tom as tackles. The team could consider moving Sean Rhyan to right guard in such a scenario.

If Bakhtiari demonstrates sustained health and durability, the Packers may consider extending his contract beyond 2024. However, this possibility hinges on a significant “if,” considering Bakhtiari’s injury history. The uncertainty surrounding his knee injury makes it improbable for the Packers to have complete assurance — or even justified confidence — regarding his future availability.

Consequently, Green Bay could face a decision: Would they risk allocating a substantial portion of their salary cap to a player whose playing time remains uncertain? Given the doubt surrounding Bakhtiari’s durability, it seems unlikely that the Packers would make such a gamble with their financial resources. Green Bay has nearly $3 million in cap space going into 2024. Gutekunst will need to extend Jordan Love, Kenny Clark, and possibly most of their players from their previous two draft classes.

In a Bakhtiari trade, the Packers will likely receive a Day 3 draft pick at best. No NFL team would be willing to offer more for a player whose availability remains uncertain. Bakhtiari could reunite with Aaron Rodgers in New York, but he may not be willing to play home games on MetLife’s turf.

If the Packers and Bakhtiari cannot reach an agreement on a pay cut and a trade is not feasible, the most likely scenario would involve the team releasing him.

Bakhtiari has already expressed his intention to return fully healthy for the upcoming season. If his recovery progresses as planned, the Packers could potentially have three starting-caliber tackles on the team, providing flexibility to manage the tackle position.

The Packers’ offensive line was a top-ten unit in pass protection this season despite David Bakhtiari missing 16 games. If he can return to form next season, Green Bay could have the best pass-protecting offensive line in the league.

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