Bryan Bulaga

Bryan Bulaga Cleared To Return To Practice

Sidelined since tearing an ACL midway through last season, Bryan Bulaga received clearance to return to practice, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports.

The Packers took Bulaga off the PUP list Friday, though Mike McCarthy said the 29-year-old tackle will be taking part in limited practices in the near future. But this week’s brought some pleasant news for the longtime Packer blocker.

Green Bay’s ninth-year right tackle has impressed the team during his recovery, and his roster spot is no longer considered to be in doubt. McCarthy is optimistic Bulaga, who suffered his most recent injury in early November of last year, will be ready to go by Week 1. This came after an uncertain offseason.

Jason Spriggs, Byron Bell and Kyle Murphy have split time at right tackle during Bulaga’s absence.

Bulaga’s suffered multiple severe injuries as a pro — the other coming when he tore an ACL during camp in 2013 — but has started 81 games for the Packers since his 2010 rookie year. He’s in the fourth season of a five-year, $33.75MM contract and denied a rumor the Packers approached him about a pay cut this offseason, Demovsky adds.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Packers OT Bryan Bulaga

Given that he ended the 2017 season on injured reserve, Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga wasn’t considered a lock to earn a spot on Green Bay’s roster for the upcoming campaign. However, Bulaga’s recovery has reportedly been “impressive,” tweets Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, and the 29-year-old offensive lineman is no longer on the Packers’ roster bubble.

Bulaga has been no stranger to poor injury luck during his NFL career, and his 2017 ACL tear was the second of his pro tenure (he missed the entire 2013 season with same injury). Indeed, Bulaga has only appeared in all 16 games twice during his eight-year run: once during his rookie year in 2010, and again in 2016. Due roughly $8MM in cap charges in each of the next two seasons, Bulaga could have also been viewed as a potential cap casualty, as Green Bay would save more than $6MM in both 2017 and 2018 by cutting him now.

At his best, Bulaga is one of the league’s top right tackles. A former first-round pick, Bulaga received top-seven tackle grades from Pro Football Focus in both 2014 and 2016. And while he slipped to No. 39 in PFF’s rankings a season ago, a multitude of injuries — even before the campaign-ending ACL tear — likely contributed to Bulaga’s ineffective play.

Although Bulaga is currently on the active/physically unable to perform list, he’s expected to be ready for Week 1. If he’s not available at any point during the season, the Packers would turn to veteran Byron Bell, Jason Spriggs, or Kyle Murphy to play right tackle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers GM Discusses Offseason, Bulaga, Lewis

Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has been a busy man since being promoted to the gig in January. After having previously served as the team’s director of college scouting and director of player personnel, the executive is now hands-on with every aspect of the organization.

The 44-year-old recently appeared on a pair of Packers-centric podcasts, “Nagler’s Never Right” and PackersNews.com, to discuss some of his team’s offseason additions and his role as general manager (via Aaron Nagler of JSOnline.com and Jason B. Hirschhorn of NFL.com)…

On the signing of offensive lineman Byron Bell, and whether the addition was an indication that the Packers weren’t optimistic about starting tight tackle Bryan Bulaga‘s recovery from a torn ACL:

“I think moreso for us, we had an opportunity to add a guy who not only has started and played tackle, but guard as well. Having a guy that’s going to be able to compete with our group that has 40-some starts under his belt, I think that was something that was attractive to us…It was one of those things that as we moved on, we felt it would improve the entire group.”

On the addition of free agent tight end Marcedes Lewis:

“I don’t think that’s something we expected, for him to come loose. Obviously he had not only been a really good player for (the Jaguars) but an exceptional leader and teammate there.

“For us, I just think that we’re tickled to be able to get him. The amount of experience he has at that position, I think it’s really going to be valuable to us. The tight end position is one of those positions that it’s really tough for young players to come in and make an impact. Obviously, as much experience he has not only in the passing game, but as a blocker as well, I think it’s something that will hopefully provide a lot of positive things for us coming forward.”

On the fact that team president Mark Murphy retained the power to fire and hire head coaches (as opposed to the GM making the decision):

“It was certainly different than what I’ve been exposed to here in Green Bay. I needed some time to kind of process it. I think the thing to me that made it OK with me was the people. The relationships I already had with Mark [Murphy] and Mike McCarthy and Russ Ball. I think that’s what made it OK and made it easier for me. But it was certainly something I hadn’t seen or been a part of in my professional career.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Steelers, Packers, Vikings

When the Packers signed Byron Bell earlier today, most assumed it was for a reserve, depth role. But now Ryan Wood of the Green Bay Press Gazette writes that Bell may end up starting for the Packers. Wood notes that there is concern in the organization about longtime right tackle Bryan Bulaga‘s recovery from his ACL tear.

Bulaga, the Packers’ first-round pick back in 2010, tore his left ACL in week nine of last season. According to Wood, Bulaga is unlikely to be ready for week one, and there’s no real timetable for when he might be ready. Wood thinks placing Bulaga on the PUP list and holding him out at least the first six weeks of the season is a real possibility.

The good news for the Packers is that Bell has plenty of starting experience. He’s started 74 games since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2011. There was some talk earlier this offseason that the team could move on from Bulaga after he refused to take a pay cut, but the Packers seem committed to his return for now.

Here’s more from around the league’s northern divisions:

  • It’s yet to be officially diagnosed by team doctors, but Steelers tight end Jake McGee appears to have suffered a torn Achilles in practice, according to Mike Garafalo of NFL Network (Twitter link). McGee spent last year on the practice squad but Garafalo notes that some thought he could make the 53-man roster this year. If it is confirmed to be a torn Achilles, his season will be over.
  • The Steelers suffered another injury during Wednesday’s workout when backup offensive tackle Jerald Hawkins went down with a torn quad (Twitter link via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN). Fowler notes that Hawkins could go on injured reserve, but if he follows the normal timeline for a torn quad, he could be back in time for the regular season.
  • It was reported yesterday that Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr had reported to OTAs after skipping the first few sessions. Now, Ben Goessling of the Star Tribune says that he “wouldn’t be surprised if there were some candid talks in the last week” and adds that the Vikings have a “long and productive” relationship with Barr’s agent (Twitter link). It’s nothing concrete, but it’s another sign that Barr and the Vikings could be inching closer to working something out.

NFC Notes: Bulaga, Foles, Cowboys

Given that the Packers could save nearly $5MM by releasing RT Bryan Bulaga, and given Bulaga’s recent injury history, there was some chatter that Green Bay could part ways with the ninth-year pro (especially since Bulaga is not even guaranteed to be ready for the start of the 2018 season after tearing his ACL on November 6). But we recently heard that Bulaga remains in the team’s 2018 plans, and head coach Mike McCarthy said Bulaga’s rehab is ahead of schedule (per Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com). Therefore, it certainly sounds as if Bulaga will be back for the fourth year of the five-year pact he signed prior to the 2015 season.

  • In a series of tweets, Eliot Shorr-Parks of NJ.com passes along more details on Nick Foles‘ reworked deal. Foles’ cap number is now $9.6MM, fourth-highest on the Eagles, but if the team were to trade him after June 1, it would save $7MM in cap space, more than it would have saved prior to the restructure. As such, the restructure looks like a win-win in that Foles gets more money and incentives and it’s easier for the Eagles to deal him if someone comes along with a great offer. Shorr-Parks, though, still does not expect Foles to be traded.
  • The Cowboys selected Western Kentucky quarterback Mike White in the fifth round of this year’s draft, which marked just the sixth time Dallas has drafted a QB since Jerry Jones purchased the franchise in 1989. White is expected to compete with Cooper Rush for the backup job, though Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News writes that executive vice president Stephen Jones is open to carrying three signal-callers in 2018.
  • Per Mike Triplett of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Saints head coach Sean Payton does not know if the team will bring in a fourth QB to compete with Tom Savage and Taysom Hill. Payton said the Saints considered drafting a signal-caller this weekend, but they are anxious to see what Savage and Hill can do.
  • Brady Henderson of ESPN.com says the Seahawks see Shaquem Griffin, whom they selected in the fifth round of this weekend’s draft, as a weak-side LB at the next level, and he also reports that Seattle viewed fourth-round pick Will Dissly as the best blocking tight end in the class (Twitter links).
  • The Lions apparently disappointed at least a couple of teams in this weekend’s draft. Per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter), Detroit selected Auburn RB Kerryon Johnson one pick before the Redskins were prepared to take him, and the Panthers were going to take UL-Lafayette CB Tracy Walker with the No. 85 overall pick, but the Lions nabbed him with their No. 82 pick.

NFC North Rumors: Packers, Ebron, Vikings

Bryan Bulaga has now seen two of his past five seasons either wiped out or largely nullified by severe injuries, and the Packers‘ starting right tackle is now entering the seasons of his contract where a cap-casualty cut is not incredibly prohibitive. Yet, the ninth-year blocker is expected to return for the fourth season of said deal.

Whenever players are injured it’s tough as personnel guys who are not 100 percent sure of when they’re coming back,” Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst said, via Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “But I know that he’s been working exceptionally hard. We’ve got a lot of faith that he’s going to come back sooner rather than later, and obviously when Bryan is in there, Bryan is a good player.”

Mike McCarthy also wants Bulaga to be part of the 2018 Packers, indicating he’s heard the 29-year-old edge protector is on schedule following an ACL tear. It would only save the Packers $4.2MM to release Bulaga while tagging them with a $3.2MM dead-money penalty. That savings figure spikes to nearly $7MM in 2019, so Bulaga staying healthy will likely be paramount to him seeing the final year of that contract.

Here’s the more out of Green Bay as well as some of the Packers’ top rivals.

  • Jahri Evans remains in the picture, to some degree, for a second season with the Packers. Although, the former perennial All-Pro is going to turn 35 next season. “Jahri is definitely part of the conversation,” McCarthy said. “I don’t know exactly where he is as far as what his goals are, but we’re open (to him returning.” On the strength of his pass-blocking, Evans graded as Pro Football Focus’ No. 30 guard last season. While his 71.7 grade was slightly down from his Seahawks season, Evans showed in 14 games he’s still a viable NFL starter. He didn’t sign with the Packers initially until late April of last year, so the door may still be open on that front.
  • The Lions dangled Eric Ebron up until the deadline for his fifth-year option to vest before ultimately releasing him. Bob Quinn elaborated about why the former first-round pick ended up as a free agent instead of netting the Lions a draft pick in a deal. “I guess the general response that I got was, ‘The number’s too big,'” Quinn said, via Kyle Meinke of MLive.com, of Ebron’s then-$8.25MM cap figure attached to the 2018 option. “The salary that came along with the fifth-year option was something that we weighed, you know, really up until the last minute, to be honest. It was just one of those things that we knew was coming down the pike, we obviously had some trade conversations with a few teams that didn’t work out.” Ebron ended up with the Colts on a two-year, $13MM pact.
  • Not receiving any compensation for Ebron, the Lions are targeting picks via trades prior to this draft. Detroit holds just six picks. “That’s something that’ll definitely be in the talks I’d say, a week or two leading up to the draft — try to get more picks,” Quinn said, via Meinke. The Lions have a basic draft allotment, holding all their own picks save for the sixth-rounder they surrendered for Greg Robinson last year.
  • With Joe Berger and Jeremiah Sirles now out of the picture, the Vikings‘ top remaining need is on their offensive line, Ben Goessling of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Although the team signed swing blocker Tom Compton, draft help is likely en route. Rick Spielman recently attended Billy Price‘s pro day at Ohio State, and Goessling notes the team could be on the lookout for another veteran. The Vikings still have $19MM-plus in cap space.

Packers Place Bryan Bulaga On IR, Activate Jason Spriggs

The Packers made the decision to swap out higher-profile tackles on Saturday, placing Bryan Bulaga on IR and activating Jason Spriggs from the injured list, Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets.

Both moves were expected, although with Bulaga having torn his ACL against the Lions in Week 9, there was a bit of a delay compared to how these proceedings usually unfold.

Spriggs returned to practice earlier this month; he’s spent most of the season on IR. But he now could be in the mix for key playing time down the stretch for a Packers team with a goal to maintain a contention spot until Aaron Rodgers is eligible to return.

Spriggs will almost certainly be the final IR-boomerang player until a decision is made on Rodgers, who is eligible to return in Week 15. But this isn’t a certainty, and the Packers acknowledge they need to be competing for a playoff spot to bring their all-world quarterback back.

Bulaga has now torn ACLs in both of his knees during his career. He suffered a torn ACL in 2013 that wiped out his whole season. This one will end after five games. Green Bay’s starting right tackle has two years left on the extension he signed in 2015.

Spriggs suffered a hamstring injury in September but will return to action. The 2016 second-round pick figures to be an option at right tackle, along with Justin McCray. Bulaga joins Kyle Murphy as Pakcers tackles on IR.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Packers T Bryan Bulaga Done For Year

Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL, a source tells NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero (Twitter link). Bulaga will be placed on injured reserve with no hope of returning this year. Bryan Bulaga (Vertical)

Bulaga, 28, has been dealing with injuries throughout the season that have hampered his performance. Bulaga currently rates as just the 39th best tackle in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics. That’s a major step down from his top 7 placement in 2016 and 2014.

Already, the Packers’ offense is reeling from the absence of quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Now, fill-in Brett Hundley will have to do his best behind a thinned out offensive line.

For now, reserve Justin McCray is expected to start in Bulaga’s place. Second-round pick Jason Spriggs is coming off of IR and could also help fill the void.

The banged-up Packers are 4-4 after losing to the Lions on Sunday and their playoff hopes are in serious jeopardy.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

North Notes: Burfict, Bears, Packers, Decker

Vontaze Burfict‘s Bengals contract calls for a $2MM roster bonus if he’s on the team by March 31 of next year, Jim Owczarski of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. The Bengals protected themselves heavily with the Burfict extension, one that could pay out $33.234MM through 2020, since the deal comes with just $3.3MM guaranteed. Speaking publicly about the extension for the first time, Burfict didn’t elaborate much about his decision to bypass free agency for a largely non-guaranteed deal. Although, he did say he appreciates the Bengals’ support in agreeing to take him on long-term given his suspension history. “I hope so,” Burfict said (via Owczarski) of the feeling of support. “I give my blood, sweat and tears out on the field. It’s vice versa. I appreciate everything they do for me and my family and like I said, let’s go get a win on Sunday. Now we’re in for four more years, so we’re past it now. So now obviously just win some games.”

The Bengals reinstated Burfict on Thursday.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions on a night when their most storied rivalry takes center stage.

  • The BearsTarik Cohen pursuit began when Ryan Pace‘s top southeastern scout declared the then-North Carolina A&T running back was his favorite player to watch, over all of the SEC prospects he observed, and the Chicago GM soon became enamored as well, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). The Bears selected several small-school talents this year, with second-round tight end Adam Shaheen being the first, but Cohen — a fourth-rounder — has played an impact role from the start.
  • While Cohen will receive his first chance to display the elusiveness that enticed the Bears to a national audience, the Packers will be down several key players. Both starting tackles — David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga — are out, and Mike Daniels will miss the Week 4 tilt as well. The Packers are already down would-be backup options in Don Barclay, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy — each on IR — so Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com tweets a four-guard lineup could be on tap. Justin McCray, who started at tackle for Bakhtiari in Week 2, and fellow rookie Adam Pankey join second-year player Lucas Patrick in the mix to protect Aaron Rodgers on Thursday. Each of those players entered the league as a UDFA. The Packers played without both starting tackles against the Falcons, with Murphy and McCray receiving the replacement starts.
  • The Bears aren’t judging Mike Glennon in their impending quarterback swap but rather are monitoring Mitch Trubisky to determine when the rookie will be ready to take over, Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune writes. Glennon has struggled during his first three starts, and Biggs categorizes the season’s plan — once based around Trubisky redshirting as a rookie — as a week-to-week arrangement.
  • Ka’Deem Carey‘s Bears injury settlement was worth $273,529, Biggs reports. The Bears placed the backup running back on IR just before the season, and the settlement came shortly after.
  • Not known for particularly expansive pressers, Jim Caldwell succinctly assessed Taylor Decker‘s status. The fourth-year Lions coach said Decker is “progressing towards” a midseason return, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes. The left tackle was given a four- to six-month timetable upon a labrum tear in June. Midseason would fall in that range. Greg Robinson currently mans the left edge for the Lions.
  • Tests done on Danny Shelton‘s injured calf don’t look to reveal a serious malady, Rapoport tweets. The Browns defensive tackle injured the calf in practice Wednesday. He has not missed a game in his three-year career.

North Notes: Bengals, Bradford, Packers

A “near mutiny” helped induce the Bengals to fire offensive coordinator Ken Zampese after two games. Although Andy Dalton‘s job is not believed to be in jeopardy as of now, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes the leash might not be especially long for the seventh-year starter. And some Cincinnati players might not all be on board with a simple A.J. McCarron succession strategy. While it would certainly be an off-the-board choice, Florio hears some Bengals players are expressing support for a Colin Kaepernick signing.

The UFA passer has been the NFL’s most discussed player this offseason despite not being affiliated with a team. McCarron’s been a Bengal since 2014 but has never threatened Dalton’s job security, only seeing relevant action after a Dalton injury in 2015. Kaepernick said recently he does want to return to the NFL, and has been training daily for a potential chance. Many players have publicly endorsed the 29-year-old quarterback receiving an opportunity. A Bengals route might be a stretch, though, considering McCarron’s status.

Dalton currently sits on a 55 percent completion percentage and a 0-to-4 touchdown pass-to-interception ratio. The Bengals have not scored a touchdown in two games and have posted just nine points.

Here’s the latest from the North divisions.

  • The Vikings played without Sam Bradford on Sunday, and the Case Keenum-led team lost to the Steelers. Bradford’s knee injury has him at day-to-day for the time being, but Florio hears the quarterback’s injured knee is “structurally fine.” Mike Zimmer used “fine” to describe Bradford’s status (Twitter link), even though the coach was vague in setting a return timetable. Any further game absences would signal the eighth-year signal-caller is, in fact, not fine.
  • Green Bay will be playing without both starting tackles tonight in Atlanta. Longtime Packers starters David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga will miss the Falcons tilt, the team announced. Bulaga missed last week’s game due to an ankle injury suffered during preseason play. A hamstring malady will shelve Bakhtiari. Kyle Murphy and Justin McCray will start, Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports. A fourth-year UDFA, McCray has yet to play in an NFL game.
  • The Bears will not deviate at quarterback despite Mike Glennon‘s struggles, John Fox said today. Fox shot down the idea Mitch Trubisky would start in Week 3 for the 0-2 team. Glennon threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in a blowout against his former team in Week 2.
  • The Ravens received the toughest blow of any North-division team Sunday, losing Marshal Yanda for the season.