DETROIT – The Packers locked down the left side of their offensive line for the foreseeable future when they reached a contract extension with center Corey Linsley on the eve of Sunday's finale against the Detroit Lions.
The former fifth-round pick has started all 54 regular-season games he's played in since 2014, though hamstring and ankle injuries caused Linsley to miss 10 contests between 2015 and 2016.
While he missed the entire offseason program due to his rehab from ankle surgery, Linsley returned for the start of training camp and was the only Packers offensive lineman to not miss a snap this season.
Linsley has played an integral role on the Packers' offensive line since he first stepped in for an injured JC Tretter the week before the 2014 regular-season opener in Seattle. For him, it was a no-brainer to re-sign.
"This is an amazing place," said Linsley after Sunday's 35-11 loss to the Lions. "I was unbelievably fortunate to get drafted here and for them to make a financial investment into the next three years, that means a lot to me. I have to hold up my end of the bargain and compete and get better and grow as a player, which I expect to do. That investment into me, I appreciate it and I'm looking forward to three good seasons."
Over the past four years, Linsley has proven to be a reliable, athletic asset on the offensive line and a key communicator this year with backup quarterback Brett Hundley starting nine games in place of an injured Aaron Rodgers.
The Packers have worked hard over the past two years to keep the foundation of their offensive line intact. After re-signing Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari in September 2016, the Packers agreed to an extension with left guard Lane Taylor prior to this year's regular-season opener.
Linsley feels the most significant benefit to his return is it will allow him and Taylor a full offseason to work next to one another after the injuries forced Linsley to miss a majority of the past two summers.
Green Bay finished the 2017 season with an NFC North matchup against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com.
"He's extremely smart and intelligent. He deserves every penny that he got," Bakhtiari said. "For me, in away games with the snap count, I ain't got to bring another guy along to get on the same page because I enjoy my get-offs on away games. It makes me feel comfortable. Just extremely fortunate to have that quality of player still in our locker room and still in our offensive line room."
Conversely, the Packers have some questions on the right side of the line entering the offseason. Three of the four players who started at right tackle this season – Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy – finished the year on injured reserve.
Six-time Pro Bowl right guard Jahri Evans didn't miss a snap through the first 14 games until a knee injury sidelined him the past two weeks, with first-year offensive linemen Justin McCray and Lucas Patrick filling in. Evans, wrapping up his 12th NFL season, is an unrestricted free agent this offseason.
"I've been very fortunate to work with three – and Lane's in the making of four – amazing, top-tier guards and seeing each one's different approach," Bakhtiari said. "Jahri, that guy is a pro's pro. That guy is going to be talked about for years to come in the Saints' organization and his name is going to be somewhere in that stadium.
"Whatever he decides to do, I'd love to have him back. Not only what he can do on the field, but what he can do off the field and in our locker room. It's been amazing."
Linsley wasn't the only upcoming free agent to sign an extension with the Packers this past week. Fourth-year receiver Davante Adams also agreed to terms after leading the team with 74 catches for 886 yards and 10 touchdowns this year.
"I'm really happy for him and to see his progression as a player and a man over the last four years," receiver Randall Cobb said. "He dropped 20 pounds. That definitely helped his speed. He was faster and quicker in and out of his breaks. He was healthy, which is a huge thing for all of us. He played at the top of his game. That's the player we saw when he walked into the building and he's shown that over the past few years."
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