One could probably flip a coin on which players should be the top priority, but when it comes to the protection of the team’s most valued asset – Aaron Rodgers – one has to point to Lang as the team’s most important in-house free agent signing.
Yes, you could look at the porous defensive backfield and think Hyde should be the top priority or you could point to the fact that the Packers won 10 games when Cook was in the lineup last season.
But it has been the continuous elite play by Lang that makes him an important signing to keep that offensive line humming.
Jan 22, 2017; Atlanta, GA, USA; Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang (70) is carted off the field in the 2017 NFC Championship Game against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Rick Wood/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel via USA TODAY NETWORK
When it comes to offensive linemen, Thompson has a pretty good record. His drafting the past few years along the line has been exemplary and his decision to cut left guard Josh Sitton turned out to have been a stroke of genius on Thompson’s part.
But it has been T.J. Lang who has been one of the strongest links to one of the best lines in the NFL – and the main reason he should be Ted Thompson’s top free agent signing this offseason.
You may remember way back in early 2015 when head coach Mike McCarthy said prior to the season that his offensive line was the best he had since becoming the Packers coach; last spring he said that with the line intact, it could be an even better unit.
When that unit saw Sitton removed last spring we all scratched our collective heads and asked why.
With Lang poised to leave in free agency, Thompson simply can’t let this happen.
Sitton was valuable, but the Packers had the depth at that point to let him go.
Thompson doesn’t have that luxury with Lang.
Lang’s work ethic, leadership and elite rankings make him the gold standard for offensive linemen and one that Thompson needs to reward.
T.J. Lang: Tweeting champ is also lineman par excellence
Green Bay Packers right guard T.J. Lang is probably more well known for his tweets following the 2012 “Fail Mary” game in Seattle than anything else … and that’s because he is simply one of the best in the game at his position.
Here’s the tweet that earned records of numbers of retweets back in 2012:
F**k it NFL.. Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs.
He goes about his business with skill and technique and when working in consort with the rest of linemen on this most recent edition of Packers offensive line, he is considered near the top of the NFL.
In fact, profootballfocus.com has once again rated Lang near the top of the list among all guards across the league. At the end of the 2016 season, Lang was ranked eighth by PFF.
Lang received an overall grade by PFF of 80 (92.9 pass blocking and 76.9 run blocking).
Lang played on 964 total snaps in 2016.
Drafted by the Green Bay Packersin the fourth round (109th overall) of the 2009 NFL Draft, Lang is one of four starters on the Packers’ O-line who are fourth or fifth round picks. Only Bryan Bulaga, the Packers’ right tackle is a first round selection.
Brought to Green Bay out of Eastern Michigan, the little known Lang made an impression right away. Though it wouldn’t be until his third season, 2011, that Lang would become a full-time starter, his reliability has been unquestioned. Playing on the left side his first two years as a starter, Lang made the switch to the right side without complaint three seasons ago and with the change he blossomed into one of the best in the entire league.
Up until this past season, he had missed only one game – that being in 2012.
While Sitton received the Pro Bowl nods over Lang while they were together in Green Bay, those who evaluate linemen for a living understand that Lang is as good, if not better than his teammate.
Consider, once again, Pro Football Focus … they ranked Lang third in the entire league in 2014 … one place above his buddy and partner in crime, Sitton.
Lang played 966 snaps in 2014 and had an overall rating of +23.1. His pass blocking was rated at +9.9, while being penalized just twice, allowing one three quarterback sacks, two quarterback hits and 12 quarterback hurries.
Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Those are some pretty phenomenal numbers for a fourth round draft pick that nobody knows anything about.
There’s a reason the Packers have had just two starting quarterbacks (with the exception of half of 2013 when Rodgers fractured his clavicle) since 1992.
Lang is one of the spokes of the wheel that has kept the team’s quarterbacks healthy over the years.
He’s also the player that Ted Thompson should have near, if not at the top of his free agent signing list.
The guy is too valuable to let walk to another team.
I would be very surprised if Thompson isn’t already working on a team-friendly contract that would bring Lang back to the Green Bay Packers for at least a couple of more seasons.