Pro Football Focus Picks Packers T.J. Lang as Free Agent for Colts to Sign


According to Pro Football Focus (via ESPN Insider), the Indianapolis Colts should sign prized Green Bay Packers offensive guard T.J. Lang among all available top free agents:

"Indianapolis ColtsT.J. Lang, G | Position rank: 8thDec 11, 2016; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang (70) during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 38-10. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY SportsWhen it can field its strongest five starters, the offensive line in Indianapolis is a lot better than it showed at times in 2016, but it still has an issue at guard. Jack Mewhort is a good player at one spot, but the other could use an upgrade, and Lang has been one of the league’s most consistent guards for several years now for the Packers. In 13 games this past season, he didn’t allow a single sack or hit on Aaron Rodgers, despite Rodgers’ holding the ball longer on average than all QBs besides Tyrod Taylor."

Originally drafted by the Packers in the 4th round of the 2009 NFL Draft, the 6’4″, 318 pound offensive guard has made 94 career starts over the past 8 seasons for Green Bay and has developed into one of the top offensive lineman in all of football.

He’s currently ranked as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd best offensive lineman among their ‘10 best o-lineman set to hit free agency‘:

"Jan 5, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers guard T.J. Lang (70) walks off the field after the San Francisco 49ers beat the Packers 23-20 during the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports“Lang dealt with some injuries this past season that probably contributed to a slight dip in his play, but he still finished as our eighth-ranked guard in 2016 after earning a top-five spot the previous two years.”“…While Lang is a noticeably better pass protector than run blocker, he’s still well above average in the ground game. He’s two years older than Zeitler, but could still be a better fit for a team that is pass-heavy and looking to upgrade its pass protection.”"

Of course, the Colts could clearly use an improvement along the right side of their offensive line, as the team surrendered the 2nd most QB hits at 128 total QB hits and the 5th most sacks with 44 total sacks this past season.

Shoring up Andrew Luck‘s pass protection remains one of the top priorities for the Colts this offseason–keeping their franchise player healthy and upright.

While two of the team’s rookies, Joe Haeg (RG) and Le’Raven Clark (RT), showed flashes of potential along the offensive–particularly in Haeg’s case, neither player was still able to solidify the position in their initial debut season.

It doesn’t mean that either player can’t be the long-term answer at their respective position, but at the same time, the Colts could pursue a veteran to shore up the right side instead of purely relying on a pair of 2nd-year players to take another leap forward in 2017.

Dec 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers offensive guard T.J. Lang (70) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Packers 38-8. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 27, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Green Bay Packers offensive guard T.J. Lang (70) against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium. The Cardinals defeated the Packers 38-8. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

That player could potentially be Lang, who is a Super Bowl XLV Champion and was named a Pro Bowler this past season–having starred for Packers star quarterback Aaron Rodgers in pass protection in recent seasons.

The only real complaint that I would have regarding Lang is that he’ll turn 30 years old next September, so you’re realistically looking at him playing at a peak level for 2-3 more seasons before he begins to decline.

The Colts appear to be at least a season away from seriously contending–even if they should compete for the AFC South crown again in 2017, just because of how bad of shape their historically woeful defense is currently in.

In my opinion–and again, this is just my opinion, the Colts would be better served pursuing the Cincinnati Bengals Kevin Zeitler if they’re going to enter the market for a top free agent offensive guard.

The Bengals prized offensive guard will turn 27 years old in March, so he’s two years younger than Lang–giving the Colts theoretically two more seasons of peak play when the team may be actually ready to seriously contend. It doesn’t make sense to waste a top player’s few remaining ‘peak’ years during a bit of a ‘rebuilding’ effort, when the Colts are more than just one piece away from contending.

While Lang is listed as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd best rated free agent offensive lineman, Zeitler is rated as their top offensive lineman all together:

"Oct 18, 2015; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Cincinnati Bengals guard Kevin Zeitler (68) during the game against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports1. Kevin Zeitler, G, Cincinnati BengalsZeitler may be just below the “elite” tier of guards, but not by much. He has earned a top-10 overall grade among guards in each of the last three seasons, and is pretty balanced in having success as both a run and pass blocker. Zeitler has allowed just one sack over the past two seasons, and recorded the fifth-highest pass-blocking efficiency among guards in 2016. At age 27, he likely has a whole contract’s worth of good years ahead of him, which gives him the edge over the next two players."

Of course, either one of these top offensive guards would clearly help the Colts next season–should the franchise choose to go that route in free agency.

It would be hard to go wrong with either.

Next: Colts Could Consider these Top 7 ‘Under the Radar’ Free Agents

The Colts pass protection–especially on the right side, as well as fixing the defense as a whole, remain the franchise’s top priorities this offseason.

At least short term, Lang would make a lot of sense for the Colts in fixing the former, as the Packers star offensive guard presents a significant upgrade at the position and would help solidify their offensive line going forward.