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Finding Free Agents: Bryan Bulaga would be a strong stopgap solution at right tackle

NFC Championship - Green Bay Packers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In our 2020 iteration of Finding Free Agents, we’ll attempt to answer three questions for each player: Why would the Seahawks be interested? What would their contract look like? What is the likelihood they reach free agency? Throughout the series, we’ll be focused on specific positions of need in Seattle: Wide receiver, tight end, offensive line and EDGE.

For nine years, Bryan Bulaga has held down the right side of the Packers’ offensive line. While the rest of Green Bay’s line, in addition to Aaron Rodgers’ weapons, have undergone constant change, Bulaga has been a constant matched only by Rodgers himself. Bulaga’s contract is coming to an end just as left tackle David Bakhtiari, one of the game’s best blindside protectors, comes into a contract year. The Packers may need to allocate funds to sign Bakhtiari to a massive extension, meaning Bulaga could hit the open market ahead of his age-31 season.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?

Seattle’s right tackle for the past four seasons, Germain Ifedi, is heading into unrestricted free agency and should top $10M APY. While Ifedi is a solid starter—and unfairly maligned—it would be wise for the Seahawks to pursue cheaper alternatives. A potential in-house alternative, George Fant, appears to be focused on finding an opportunity to play left tackle—so he’s likely to move on, too. In Week 16, Jamarco Jones showed he is not ready—or simply not able—to start in the NFL, as he was consistently beaten by Chandler Jones.

Seattle’s long-term solution at right tackle seems to be Jones or, more likely, a draft pick. Assuming that draft pick isn’t a day-one or -two selection, either option could use a year or two of development. Bulaga remains a solid, consistent player at right tackle—Sports Info Solutions credits him with blown blocks on just 2.2 percent of snaps in 2019—and would be able to step right in and lock down the right just as Duane Brown has on the left. Seahawks offensive line coach Mike Solari has familiarity with Bulaga, too, having spent the 2015 season together. Bulaga excels as a run blocker and would fit Seattle’s offense seamlessly.

What would Bulaga’s contract look like?

Bulaga is finishing up a contract, signed in 2015, that paid him $6.75M APY. Despite his advanced age, Bulaga should be expected to see a bump in that figure on his next deal. Current Bears right tackle Bobby Massie offers an excellent point of comparison. A year ago, at age-30, Massie agreed to a four-year deal worth $32M, with $6.5M fully guaranteed. (Chicago also came away with very favorable teams options every year.) Massie’s $8M APY would be a fair projection for Bulaga. While it would seem unlikely for the Seahawks to do a four-year deal, as long as the guarantees of the deal are packed into the first year or two, it would be a harmless term to give.

Will Bulaga reach free agency?

Whether Bulaga reaches free agency or not, Green Bay won’t be short on options. Former second-round pick Jason Spriggs, also a pending free agent, is an in-house replacement option (more on him later). Jared Veldheer was coaxed out of retirement by the Packers this past season and started in Bulaga’s place against Seattle in the divisional round, and could return for another season.

The Packers spent big last spring and have a number of contract situations to address, namely Kenny Clark and Blake Martinez, so Bulaga could be the odd man out. Barring a team friendly deal, Bulaga should be expected to test free agency. If he does, he would be a sensible short-term solution for the Seahawks.