Yes, Packer Nation. He’s back. I’m talking about offensive lineman Don Barclay. Some fans couldn’t believe that the Green Bay Packers re-signed Barclay in 2016 and many had the same opinion three months ago when the Packers re-signed No. 67 yet again this year.
Why? Mostly because Barclay has been inconsistent with his play over the past few years. Which also includes giving up sacks at untimely moments.
On March 10, the Packers brought back Barclay and gave him a very modest contract. According to Over The Cap, Barclay will make just $775,000 in base salary and $250,000 in a prorated/workout bonuses, which makes his total cap number for 2017 just $1,025,000.
That’s not exactly a big investment for a guy who has been in the NFL and with the Packers since his rookie year in 2012.
Speaking of Barclay’s rookie year, I was at training camp that summer on a number of occasions and I wrote an article for Bleacher Report that said Barclay had a good chance to make the team as an undrafted rookie.
That is indeed what happened.
Barclay did not get off to a great start that training camp, but he settled in, as the Packers were using him primarily on the inside of the offensive line, after being a three-year starter at left tackle for West Virginia.
The Packers saw that Barclay’s lack of foot speed would be a detriment on playing tackle in the NFL, so that is why they moved him inside. It was there where Barclay displayed a tenacious style of play which impressed me and more importantly the coaching staff.
But because of injuries, Barclay also got reps at right tackle and that is the position he ended up playing as a rookie. In fact, Barclay played in all 16 games as a rookie, and started the last four games of the regular season at right tackle and two postseason games there as well.
Barclay showed a better than average ability as a run-blocker, but also struggled pass blocking versus edge rushers as a rookie.
In 2013, the plan was for Barclay to get more work inside at guard, plus get some reps at center as well. But when starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga tore his ACL on Family Night, Barclay was pressed to play right tackle again for the entire season.
Once again, Barclay struggled with edge rushers in 14 starts. But all in all, he did a somewhat decent job protecting the quarterback for the most part. The run blocking of Barclay was his again his biggest attribute.
In 2014, the plan was for Barclay to be sort of the Swiss Army Knife for the offensive line and play both inside and outside in reserve. But then he tore his ACL and missed the entire year.
The ACL injury definitely slowed Barclay down in 2015, as he really struggled at each of the offensive tackle positions, as the Packers were hit hard with injuries at that position that year.
No. 67 started five games for the Packers in 2015, four at right tackle and one at left tackle. In those games, Barclay gave up nine sacks and multiple pressures.
The final straw came after his dismal pass-blocking performance in the Week 16 game against the Arizona Cardinals at left tackle, as the team gave up nine sacks as a team. The Packers never looked at Barclay again at either tackle position the rest of the season or the playoffs.
The most important player on the Packers is quarterback Aaron Rodgers. It’s imperative that the team protects No. 12 with the best possible set of offensive tackles. That’s what the Packers have with Bulaga at right tackle and David Bakhtiari at left tackle. Both are among the best in the league at their respective positions
The Packers wanted to cover themselves in the 2016 NFL draft at that position, which is why they drafted two offensive tackles, Jason Spriggs and Kyle Murphy.
During the 2016 season, Spriggs was considered the swing tackle, in case there was an injury to either Bulaga or Bakhtiari. Fortunately for the Packers, and for Rodgers, both Bulaga and Bakhtiari started all 16 games last year.
Barclay was going to be strictly used inside, at either guard or center if needed. That is where the Packers envisioned him back in his rookie season of 2012.
Unfortunately for Barclay, things didn’t go well for him when he started a game against the Washington Redskins last year when right guard T.J. Lang was unable to play. Barclay did not play well at all and was later pulled out of the game and Spriggs took his place.
It was later learned that Barclay had hurt his shoulder before the game.
But the Packers still brought him back in 2017. Why? Mostly because the Packers lost both Lang and center/guard JC Tretter to free agency.
The Packers also covered themselves some more after signing Barclay in early March, by signing veteran right guard Jahri Evans just before the draft and then drafting Kofi Amichia out of South Florida, who will play both guard and center for the Packers.
Like Barclay, Amichia was a starter at left tackle in college.
And based on the OTAs last week, it appears that Barclay is now the second string center, as he got that starter’s reps at center, as starting center Corey Linsley is rehabbing from ankle surgery.
And with the release of center Jacob Flores last week, Barclay now has a chance to prove him self once again with the Packers at that position.
Over his career, in which he has played 62 games over five years, including 24 starts, Barclay may not have impressed a lot of people in Packer Nation, but he is obviously respected and well liked by his teammates and his coaches.
That includes his position coach.
“He’s been in some really tough spots as a freshman, his rookie year and he came flying through,” offensive line coach James Campen said. “Now he overcame a bad injury, flying through. This will be the second year off of (the torn ACL). I have all the confidence in the world in Donny Barclay. Donny is a pro’s pro. Love him.”
Barclay’s quarterback seconds that motion.
“Bringing Don back was a big thing for us,” Aaron Rodgers said. “He stepped into the backup center role and has done a fantastic job in the IPWs and now in the OTAs. He has really improved his game. You’re looking at a guy who has started at tackle for us, started at guard for us and now is in line to be our backup center. That’s fantastic. I give him a lot of credit. He’s had a great approach, he’s a great teammate and I think this is an important offseason for him to continue to show this team how valuable he is to it.”
The man who will make the final decision about who stays and who goes regarding the 2017 roster of the Packers, also likes the qualities of Barclay.
“Don Barclay has so many excellent attributes,” head coach Mike McCarthy said. “You look at someone who can play all five positions and has played tackle, guard and center in our system, so his versatility, his work ethic, he’s a great locker room guy. Most importantly he’s from Pittsburgh. That goes a long way around here.”
Yes, Barclay is definitely appreciated by his coaches and teammates for all he has endured and overcome so far in his time in Green Bay and the NFL.
But nothing is a given in the NFL. Barclay will be pushed by Amichia for reps at backup center. Who ever performs the best will win that job. Both will not only get plenty of reps in the OTAs, but also in the preseason, a the Packers will be careful about the playing time allotted to Linsley once he returns from rehabbing his ankle injury.
Linsley likes what he sees so far from Barclay.
“Donny is always wanting to learn more about the position,” Linsley said. “This is his second year kind of playing it, although last year he filled in a lot at guard and not really center. So he’s kind of got his foundation set and he’s getting a lot better at different things. We have a great working relationship.”
We shall see what happens. But for now, Barclay is the Rodney Dangerfield of the offensive line to many in Packer Nation. As in, he gets no respect.
But to his coaches and teammates, Barclay gets plenty of admiration.