The Green Bay Packers lost a couple of key members of their offensive line in free agency, as center/ guard JC Tretter signed with the Cleveland Browns and right guard T. J. Lang signed with the Detroit Lions.
Tretter had done a good job as a starting center when called upon, plus had also helped out at guard and also at left tackle in the 2015 postseason. Lang was named to his first Pro Bowl in 2016 and was one of the better guards in the NFL when healthy.
The health of both Tretter and Lang was a key concern of the Packers, as Tretter had been sidelined twice for long stretches with leg/knee injuries, while Lang has been playing hurt (shoulder/foot/hip) for a couple of years now.
So with both Tretter and Lang now gone, the Packers had to fill the void in both free agency and the draft. First, the Packers re-signed Don Barclay, not so much to be a starter, but to be a key reserve for almost every position along the offensive line.
It was also announced by head coach Mike McCarthy that offensive lineman Kyle Murphy, who was drafted in 2016, would be competing at both right guard and right tackle in OTAs and training camp.
Then on the eve of the 2017 NFL draft, the Packers signed guard Jahri Evans, formerly of the New Orleans Saints. Evans was once one of the very best guards in the NFL, as he was named to six Pro Bowl teams and was named first-team All-Pro four times.
After being released by both the Saints and the Seattle Seahawks before the 2016 season, Evans returned to New Orleans and played solidly in all 16 games after dropping some weight.
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the one-year contract is worth $2.25 million, with a $1.15 million base salary, a $200,000 signing bonus, $50,000 per game in roster bonuses ($800,000 total), $100,000 in workout bonuses and $225,000 in likely to be earned incentives.
Then on the third day of the draft, the Packers selected offensive lineman Kofi Amichia of South Florida. Seeing as I live in the Tampa area, I had a chance to view many of the USF football games. And from what I saw from Amichia, I was impressed.
The 6’4″, 304-pound Amichia started two games at right tackle in 2014 before starting 26 straight games at left tackle in 2015 and 2016.
Amichia was named first-team All-American Athletic Conference in 2016.
In the NFL, it is expected that Amichia will move inside and play guard and center.
I wanted to get a scouting perspective on Amichia from one of the best in the business, NFL scout Chris Landry.
I had another opportunity to talk with Landry earlier this week on 620 WDAE’s Steve Duemig Show, which was guest-hosted by Pat Donovan and Aaron Jacobson.
When I talked to Landry, I first mentioned what a great pro day workout Amichia had at USF, as he ran the 40 in 4.99, did 32 reps in the bench press drill, had a vertical jump of 33½ inches and a broad jump of 9 feet 6 inches.
I also mentioned that Amichia had scored a 31 on the Wonderlic intelligence test.
Landry was impressed with the selection of Amichia by the Packers.
“He’s very quick. He really understands blocking angles,” Landry said. “He is very smart. He needs to get a little stronger in the upper-body. I like him at center even more than guard.
“I think he’s got position versatility and it’s really good that he can play both spots. A really good value, as they normally do in Green Bay, getting good value in the sixth round. I thought it was a really nice pick for them.”
General manager Ted Thompson has done very well in the middle and late rounds of the draft in selecting good offensive lineman, as Landry eluded to.
For example, the Packers picked Lang (2009), Josh Sitton (2008) and left tackle David Bakhtiari (2013) in the fourth round, while center Corey Linsley (2014) was selected in the fifth round.
They key in selecting a player like Amichia is his versatility. Instead of picking both a guard and a center in the recent draft, the Packers now have a player who can play both.
Time will tell how things will shape up on the offensive line in 2017 for the Packers, but by adding a player like Amichia, they have a player who can provide flexibility along the line in a number of positions.
Being athletic, quick and smart won’t hurt Amichia’s cause either.