After what some considered a slow start, was there any hotter player in the NFL down the stretch in 2016 than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers? When it was all said and done, Mike Mccarthy’s team wound up one game short of the Super Bowl. The 11-year signal-caller would lead the league with 40 touchdown passes. And the active Rodgers was sacked only 35 times in 645 passing plays. That’s pretty good protection for a quarterback that likes to venture out of the pocket. But Green Bay’s offensive line has taken a few notable hits this offseason. Now general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy have to devise a plan when it comes to replacing the team’s top guard.

T.J. was more than OK

A fourth-round pick by the Green Bay Packers in 2009, the 29-year-old performer has been a primary starter along the team’s offensive line for the past six seasons. The versatile pro has played every position up front with the exception of center. But Lang has settled in at right guard the past four years. According to Pro Football Focus, only seven guards in the NFL earned a higher grade than Lang in 2016. Even more significantly when it came to Aaron Rodgers, only Baltimore’s Marshal Yanda earned a higher ranking at the position when it came to pass protection. The former Eastern Michigan product played and started 13 games this past year and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl after eight NFL seasons.

Any immediate answers out there?

So who takes over for Lang, who signed a free-agent deal with the NFC North rival Detroit Lions? Keep in mind that center J.C. Tretter is no longer in the mix when it comes to the Green Bay Packers offensive line. He’s now with the Cleveland Browns so there will be no conversion to guard.

When Lang was out for three games this past season, Don Barclay (1) and rookie Jason Spriggs (2) combined to start those contests. This summer, you can look for a spirited training camp battle for the right guard spot between these two versatile performers. It would also be a big surprise if Thompson didn’t invest a draft choice or two on the offensive line.

In terms of an available free agent, what about Hugh Thornton (Indianapolis Colts), a younger performer that is gearing for his fifth NFL season. Green Bay certainly has other options, but replacing Lang may be the team’s toughest task this year.

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