Green Bay Packers

Royce Newman's Back Is Against the Wall In Green Bay

Photo Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Even before releasing David Bakhtiari and losing Jon Runyan Jr. and Yosh Nijman in free agency, the Green Bay Packers entered the 2024 offseason with offensive line depth as a major need.

As he’s done in the past, Brian Gutekunst spent significant draft capital to bolster the line, adding Jordan Morgan in the first round, Jacob Monk in the fifth, and Travis Glover in the seventh. Gutekunst also added former first-round pick Andre Dillard into the mix. While an unproven group, it shows Green Bay’s commitment to keeping the cupboard full of athletically gifted big men.

The Packers need the depth, especially on the interior. Beyond the team’s starting core, there isn’t much proven talent. However, the influx of new blood might spell the end of the journey for one of the team’s veteran linemen. Royce Newman is still on his rookie deal, but he’s one of the longest-tenured offensive linemen on this young team. He will face a daunting uphill battle to make the 53-man roster, let alone secure a significant role on the team.

Where does the former Ole Miss lineman stand?

Newman was a rare case in terms of development. He started 16 games as a rookie and looked like he might evolve into a solid long-term starter at guard. The Packers have an established history of developing Day 3 linemen into productive starters, and it looked like Newman could be the next one.

However, he never lived up to that early promise. Newman started six games in his sophomore season in 2022, including a less-than-thrilling stint at right tackle. The entire offensive line had a rough start but got going when they found their best five-man combination. Unfortunately for Newman, he wasn’t one of those five and faded into the background, only seeing action in relief toward the end of the season.

Newman played even fewer snaps in 2023. He came in halfway through Week 2 in relief of Elgton Jenkins and started the following two games at left guard. He was a complete liability in those two starting games, allowing nine pressures, seven hurries, one sack, and one QB hit. The Packers wouldn’t rely on Newman’s services outside of a handful of special teams snaps, even when injuries along the line piled up later in the season.

Via Packer Central’s Bill Huber, had Newman logged the requisite playing time, he would have ranked last among guards in pass-blocking efficacy. His 2023 PFF of 44.3 score was a career low.

Falling down the depth chart already put the former fourth-round pick in a precarious position to end the 2023 season. Green Bay’s additions to that group will make his battle even more challenging.

Newman is still getting looks with the first-team O-line in OTAs, where he rotated in at both guard spots. He also mentioned wanting to get back to building off of the success of his rookie season when he spoke to the media last week.

Newman is unlikely to find a starting spot; the only real option is at right guard. While Sean Rhyan hasn’t proven himself there yet long-term, he’s got the higher upside and should be the favorite to start there come Week 1.

As the longest-tenured interior option after Elgton Jenkins, Newman gets a slight edge over rookie contributors for a backup role. The Packers have been slow to hand rookie offensive linemen starting jobs when there’s a veteran option, even when the rookie seems like the better pick. Newman also can play tackle in a pinch, though his time as a tackle in the NFL didn’t inspire confidence. Green Bay could keep Newman around as a veteran option for four spots.

There are probably six locks along the offensive line to make the initial 53-man roster: Zach Tom, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Sean Rhyan, Rasheed Walker, and Jordan Morgan. Some combination of this group will be their best five, and even if Morgan doesn’t crack the starting lineup, he’s a first-round pick.

The Packers kept nine O-linemen on the initial roster in 2020 and 2021, 10 in 2022, and 11 in 2023. It’s worth noting that uncertainty with Bakhtiari likely contributed to higher numbers in the past two seasons. But let’s assume the Packers will keep nine or 10 for 2024. Andre Dillard gets a nod as a swing tackle, filling the Yosh Nijman role. Dillard hasn’t lived up to his draft capital but has pedigree and fills a valuable role. He’s not a lock, but I’d be surprised if he doesn’t make the initial roster.

The Packers like Caleb Jones and Luke Tenuta as developmental options at tackle. Monk and Glover are recent draft picks, and Donovan Jenkins is a promising UDFA. A handful of other options on the roster could also surprise and push for a final spot.

Newman is likely in the mix with this final group and needs to prove that his experience can bring more to the table than a rookie or fringe player’s ceiling can. It’s also worth noting that if the Packers cut Newman, it would clear up around $3 million for the team.

With this crowded group, Newman’s downward trajectory, and the ability to gain some cap space, it seems unlikely Newman will make it through the summer as a Green Bay Packer. Still, he has experience and versatility, which the team likes, and he likely knows this is his final shot. With his back to the wall, can Newman elevate his play to stick around for at least one more year? It doesn’t seem probable, but that’s why we have training camp.

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