Teams around the league finalized the cuts to their 53-man rosters on Tuesday. One of the biggest decisions for the Green Bay Packers was to keep All-Pro offensive tackle David Bakhtiari on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. The move renders him unavailable for the first six weeks of the season.
It’s not a surprise. In fact, it would’ve been a shock if Bakhtiari had been ready to go for Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints. By making this move, Green Bay has the long game in mind.
Let’s preface by saying the Packers are looking out for what is in the best interest of Bakhtiari and his long-term future. They just locked him up to a 4-year, $105 million extension last November, ensuring that he will be in the green and gold for years to come. It would be foolish to rush him back from a torn ACL, and when you factor in that Green Bay is expecting him to be healthy and available for years to come, it just adds another layer to the cake.
The other consideration is, “Would you rather have Bakhtiari in September or in January?” That’s an easy answer. It’s January. It’s the playoffs, the snow-globe games at Lambeau Field.
The only acceptable outcome for Green Bay this year is not only getting right back to that mark but leaping over it. They’ve lost back-to-back NFC title games to the San Francisco 49ers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. They bring back most of their core from a year ago. Barring significant injuries, it would be stunning not to see the Packers back in the playoffs.
Bakhtiari is essential for the second half of the season and another run at a Lombardi Trophy. He knows it, and the Packers know it. Rushing him back would make no sense. And while that sounds obvious, we see athletes try to rush back to the field all the time. Sometimes they even get a nudge from the coaching staff. Green Bay wasn’t having any of that.
Bakhtiari will miss at least six games, including matchups against the New Orleans Saints, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, and Chicago Bears.
Without No. 69 present, the defensive fronts for the 49ers and Steelers could present plenty of problems for Green Bay. But they should be settled in by the time those games pop up in Weeks 3 and 4, respectively.
Looking at the back half of the schedule, there are games against the Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, Baltimore Ravens, Cleveland Browns, and two contests against a revamped Minnesota Vikings defensive line. Having Bakhtiari ready for that stretch should be the focus of his recovery.
Matt LaFleur wouldn’t reveal a cemented offensive-line depth chart for Week 1 when he spoke to the media recently, but there are some foregone conclusions to be drawn.
It will almost certainly be Elgton Jenkins filling in for Bakhtiari at left tackle. All indicators point towards the rookie out of Ohio State, Josh Myers, starting at center. Billy Turner will likely play at right tackle. The two guard spots appear to be up for grabs, and one could go to another rookie, Royce Newman, who absolutely balled out in the preseason.
LaFleur is going to let everyone keep pondering what the five-across line will look like.
“Yeah, we do, we have a pretty good idea of what we’re going to do,” LaFleur said Sunday. “We do still have some practices, but we won’t unveil any of that until game time.”
Savvy move by the third-year head coach.
It will almost feel like a new acquisition when the Packers get Bakhtiari back sometime after the six-week mark. The focus is winning the Super Bowl this year for Green Bay. For Bakhtiari, specifically, it’s also looking out for his next four years in the land of cheese.
It’s a bit deflating knowing Bakhtiari won’t be ready to go in Week 1, but he tore his ACL in December, and we are just entering September. Add in that he’s one of the big boys up front on the offensive line, and one would venture to guess that makes the rehab process even more tricky to predict.
The good news is the Packers have a clear-cut plan in place. In his absence, the rest of the offensive line will need to hold down the fort, something they have been working on all offseason and preseason.
Having Aaron Rodgers helps, of course. He will mask some of the problems that could pop up. Getting Bakhtiari back at 100% is the ultimate goal, with February dreams in mind.