Green Bay Packers

Rasheed Walker May Be the Packers’ Future At Left Tackle

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Rasheed Walker will likely want to forget the first half of the NFL season. Walker leapfrogged Yosh Nijman to the No. 2 left tackle role and immediately saw action following Week 1 after the Green Bay Packers lost David Bakhtiari for the year due to a season-ending knee injury. Walker started six out of the next seven games with highly inconsistent play featuring fair-to-middling pass protection, sub-par run blocking, and several miscues. Ultimately, the Packers benched Walker in favor of Nijman during the Week 8 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings.

In that game, Walker had a particularly bad snap where edge defender D.J. Wonnum beat him, even after having chip help from running back A.J. Dillon.

After that game, Matt LaFleur threw down the gauntlet and indicated that left tackle is “going to be up for discussion” moving forward. Since then, the Packers have split snaps at left tackle between Nijman and Walker. Over the last seven games, Walker has averaged a 72.2 PFF grade over 323 snaps; Nijman has a 61.8 PFF grade over 137 snaps. Walker’s most recent game was his best yet, with an 88.7 PFF grade ranking him first among tackles in the NFL for Week 15.

Coming out of college, Walker was an enticing prospect but fell due to teams’ concerns over a previous knee issue and a sub-par pro day. However, Walker’s frame, raw strength, and ability to anchor made him an enticing prospect. However, scouts were concerned with Walker’s range, that he’d get beat too often outside, and that he’d struggle with the speed and accuracy of his hand placement. We saw some of these issues early in the year, particularly with speed rushers testing Walker’s outside edge. For instance, in the play below, Walker gets off the snap late and allows favorable leverage to the defender’s rush, losing balance and allowing pressure on the quarterback.

But more recently, Walker has had better balance and hand placement that allows him to win at the point of attack and finish off his blocks once he wins. In the play below against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he does a great job grabbing inside the shoulder pads, controlling the defender’s momentum away from the running back, and driving him into the ground, essentially taking him out of the way.

While those are just a few plays for comparison, Walker has shown a more balanced game and has limited mistakes. From better get-off to improved hand placement to continued use of his size and strength, Walker’s profile increasingly looks more like a starting left tackle in the NFL. So, where does that put the Packers now or moving forward? Will Walker or Bahktiari be the primary left tackle in 2024? Well, it’s complicated.

Let’s start with Bahktiari. Regardless of whether or not he is on Green Bay’s roster in 2024, he will count against the cap for roughly $19 million. Ultimately, it seems unlikely Bakhtiari is back unless he wants to work with the Packers to craft an altered contract that allows him to return in 2024, reestablish his value, and hit free agency in 2025. That’s possible, given his lack of availability limiting what he’d see if he seeks another contract with a different team in 2024.

Compared to Bakhtiari’s contract, Walker is making pennies on his rookie deal. Currently, the Packers have Walker under control for 2024 and 2025 for roughly $2 million total. If Walker continues his ascension and Green Bay thinks he’s a long-term NFL-caliber starter at left tackle, I think the Packers will move on from Bakhtiari and use the next two years of Walker at left tackle to continue to get out of their salary cap issues. Time will tell, but Walker’s play is a storyline to watch in Green Bay’s final three games.

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