Third in a series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ unrestricted, restricted and exclusive-rights free agents in advance of the start of the 2017 league year and NFL free agency March 9.
GREEN BAY - For all the gripes and groans he evokes from fans, Green Bay Packers offensive lineman Don Barclay still has some value.
Here is a rare lineman the Packers consider capable of playing four of the five positions along the offensive line, from guard to center to right tackle. Though Barclay’s athleticism has eroded after he tore his ACL in training camp two years ago — an injury that cost him all of the 2014 season — he gives coach Mike McCarthy options.
At a position where rolled-up knees and ankles are common, options are good.
That doesn’t mean Barclay is a starting-caliber player, or even figures to be on the 53-man roster in September. Barclay, who becomes a free agent next month, will have to beat out younger competition for a spot in 2017. But the Packers might find Barclay’s versatility, combined with a minimum deal worth $775,000, to be worth keeping around this offseason.
With a healthier offensive line in 2016, Barclay wasn’t needed as much last season after starting five games in 2015. When attrition did get to the Packers’ starting linemen, he showed his versatility.
Barclay’s 144 offensive snaps in 2016 included a season-high 74 at left guard against Tennessee. A week later, Barclay made his lone start of the season at right guard, playing 38 snaps against Washington before a shoulder injury knocked him out of the game.
Though Barclay (6-foot-4, 305 pounds) is mostly a guard at this point in his career, he also got snaps at center and right tackle last fall.
Late in the season, second-round rookie Jason Spriggs bypassed Barclay on the depth chart. With Pro Bowl right guard T.J. Lang out because of a broken foot, Spriggs started and played 100 percent of the offensive snaps at Philadelphia and against Houston. Barclay was limited to special teams in both games.
Spriggs’ starting nods were at least in part because of the way the Packers’ offense was forced to play. Before converted receiver Ty Montgomery gave them a reliable running threat, the Packers were effectively a college-style spread offense. With the Packers forced to throw the ball more, Spriggs’ athleticism was the better option for interior pass protection.
Barclay remains a better run blocker than Spriggs, especially from the guard position. He no longer is the same pass blocker as in 2013, when he started 14 games at right tackle replacing Bryan Bulaga.
With his 28th birthday coming in April, Barclay’s athleticism isn’t going to improve. Kyle Murphy, the rookie lineman who effectively had a redshirt season in 2016, will have one more year of experience and could make a jump. It also remains to be seen whether the Packers will draft an offensive lineman one year after selecting two.
But the question in March won’t be whether Barclay still can give the Packers value on a 53-man roster. On a 90-man offseason roster, Barclay might still have a place.
Don Barclay, sixth-year offensive lineman
The skinny: Unrestricted free agent.
The snaps: Played 16 games with one start in 2016; 62 games and 24 starts in career.
2016 salary: $700,000