Don Barclay: Returning depth or new starter?


Before the Green Bay Packers began their season, Mike McCarthy made a bold statement: This was the best group of offensive linemen he had ever brought together.

Though it was bold, there was plenty to like.

He had two stellar starting guards (T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton), a left tackle coming off an impressive rookie season (David Bakhtiari), a good right tackle returning from injury (Bryan Bulaga), a soon-to-be-starting rookie center (Corey Linsley), and multiple depth guys who could play multiple positions and step in whenever injuries struck (J.C. Tretter, Lane Taylor, and Don Barclay).

Before the season started, a couple of those pieces managed to get injured, but that optimistic viewpoint rang true: Green Bay had its best offensive line performance during Aaron Rodgers‘ tenure as Green Bay’s starting quarterback; and by multiple measures, the Packers even had one of the best offensive lines in the league.

Barclay, unfortunately, missed being a contributing part of that; he missed the season with injury.

His previous for, however, shows that he would have most likely been another key contributor to the group had he been healthy.

Barclay came to Green Bay the same way many players do: he was undrafted.

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In 2012, the Packers decided to give him an opportunity to make the team, and he delivered. He was active for all 16 games that rookie year, with four starts thrown in for good measure.

Then in 2013, when Bulaga went down with a knee injury before the season, he ended up being the starter for 14 games.

His presence in 2013 helped Green Bay reach multiple heights:

Eddie Lacy reached 1,178 yards rushing, the most by a Packers rookie running back … ever;
– Number 3 offense (6,404 net yards); the second-best offensive yardage ever for Green Bay; and
– Number 6 passing offense and number 7 rushing offense; the first time Green Bay ranked in the top-10 in both areas in a season since 2004.

Oct 27, 2013; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers guard Don Barclay (67) gets ready to play against the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field at H.H.H. Metrodome. The Packers win 44-31. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Remember that not only was Bulaga not playing, but Aaron Rodgers (as well as Randall Cobb) missed large portions of that season. The credit doesn’t all go to him for those stats, but there is credit due.

Despite those positives, however, there are variables to consider when figuring if Green Bay will bring Barclay back into the fold this offseason.

As recorded in other places, the Packers have so far been putting all of their focus towards contracts for Cobb and Bulaga.

Depending how much it costs to keep them – and how much Barclay may be seeking – Green Bay could decide to move on. Lucky for him, his asking price probably isn’t that high so that shouldn’t be much of an issue.

The injury factor could have more of an effect.

While Bulaga returned from multiple injuries over multiple seasons to stake a claim as one of the top available tackles on the market (including the same type of ACL injury Barclay is recovering from), that is still a devastating injury.

There’s no telling just how well he’ll hold up until we actually see it.

Another factor could be possible draft/free agent additions. Bringing in new talent on cheap contracts is a strength of the front office in Packers News, and having a mid- to late-round pick or undrafted free agent with upside could prove to be too tempting to pass up for Ted Thompson.

The biggest issue I see him facing, however, is the current depth.

This team has four of its starters locked in already, with Bulaga the only piece not under contract (which could change soon, with the front office focusing on him and Cobb).

Add in guys like J.C. Tretter (who was set to be a starter before injury and Linsley’s emergence at center) and Lane Taylor (depth piece capable of playing multiple positions), and there may not be any room left for Barclay, depending on how many linemen Green Bay wants to carry.

One extra variable that could work in favor of Barclay revolves directly around the Bulaga contract talks.

Green Bay Packers guard Don Barclay (67) during the game against the Washington Redskins at Lambeau Field. Green Bay won 38-20. Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports photograph

If that process sours for whatever reason and an agreement isn’t made there (aka, Bulaga and his agent want more money than Green Bay is willing to offer), Barclay could definitely be looked at as a capable replacement.

Even if he didn’t outright replace Bulaga, he could be brought back as a backup to whomever takes that spot instead (Tretter or a new free agent/draft pick).

Odds are, Barclay (rightfully) returns to Green Bay on a low-cost contract.

That’s not just my thinking, but my hope for now.

A team cannot ever have enough quality players on the offensive line, especially ones with extensive experience as starters and who can play multiple positions (in addition to tackle, Barclay has worked as a guard for the Packers).

But as I’ve said, there are still plenty of reasons he could be on the outside looking in when this roster is constructed.

For now, we’ll just have to do like Barclay and the rest of Green Bay’s free agents: Wait to see what the team decides to do.