3

August

Packers Testing Barclay’s Versatility at Backup Center

Packers OL Don Barclay is taking snaps at center during training camp.

Remember back when you were a kid playing football with your buddies during recess or in the back yard? The quarterback would draw up a play in the dirt, you’d break the huddle, and everyone would jog up to the line.

Whoever ended up closest to the ball was usually the guy who had to snap it to the quarterback. It was never a sure thing, though. Everyone would kind of glance at each other and hope someone would snap the ball. Eventually the kid nearest the ball would sigh, lumber over, bend down, and flick the ball to the quarterback.

It sounds like the Packers are using a similar method to try and find a backup center to starter Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Greg Van Roten, Garth Gerhart and Patrick Lewis were thought to the be the leading candidates during the offseason. Once training camp started, rookie Lane Taylor and Don Barclay — the starting right tackle at the end of last season — have also been given reps.

The results haven’t been pretty so far for Barclay. Forget the footwork, technique and mental adjustments required when shifting from tackle to center — Barclay is having a hard time simply snapping the ball to the quarterback without injuring innocent bystanders.

On one hand I feel for Barclay. When pressed into duty at right tackle last season, the undrafted kid out of West Virginia showed a lot of promise — especially as a run blocker — and earned a chance to win the starting job this training camp. But instead of focusing all of his attention on getting better at right tackle and becoming a full-fledged NFL starter for a Super Bowl contending team, he’s being tossed into the mix as a backup center.

The Packers offensive line is kind of like my living room. One day my wife wants the couch and end table over here. The next day she changes her mind and wants it over there. If she moves things around enough, eventually she’ll end up liking one of the configurations — at least for a little while.

On the other hand, I feel that Barclay needs to step up. He’s a young player who scrapped to make the team and earn playing time. Part of his value might be his versatility, his ability to perform when Mike McCarthy points at him and says “Barclay! We need you at (insert position on the offensive line) now!”

15

April

Evaluating Evan Dietrich-Smith’s Cool Reception on the Free Agent Market

Evan Dietrich-Smith

Evan Dietrich-Smith ended up back in Green Bay.

When the Packers only offered the original round tender to restricted free agent Evan Dietrich-Smith — as of now, the team’s leading candidate to start at center — I was a little puzzled.

In Dietrich-Smith’s case, “original round” meant any team that wanted to sign him would not have to surrender a draft pick as compensation since Dietrich-Smith was undrafted out of Idaho State.

I thought for sure some other team would take a run at Dietrich-Smith, but I was wrong. He signed his tender for $1.323 million last week and will be in Green Bay for the offseason conditioning program starting Monday.

Is it concerning that the guy slated to start at center for the Packers was unable to even draw a minimal offer from another team?

I know the free-agent market has been dry for both centers and restricted free agents this spring, but you’d think someone would be interested in signing the likely starting center for a Super Bowl contending team with the best quarterback in the league.

Aaron Rodgers and Mike McCarthy have had nothing but praise for Dietrich-Smith since he became the starter last season. I know a teammate and coach will never come right out and say one of their teammates/players is no good, but you can usually read between the lines to get the true sense of how a player is viewed.

Perhaps I’m naive, but I never read anything between the lines that suggested Dietrich-Smith didn’t have the full confidence of his quarterback and coach.

I realize that the Packers aren’t proclaiming Dietrich-Smith to be the next Dermontti Dawson, but jeez, the guy can’t even attract a $1.5 million offer from another team?

I know, I know. I need to calm down. The Packers have been successful developing from within.

If I got a hug every time I said, “Ted Thompson is really going into the season with that guy as his starter?” only to have that guy turn into a productive player, I’d be the most hugged guy in the world.

I’ve always liked Dietrch-Smith. Apparently I like him a lot more than the rest of te NFL.

Yeah, it’s a little puzzling that no other team came after him, but now is his time to prove that he’s more than just a career sixth offensive lineman.

23

March

Jeff Saturday is Now a Green Bay Packer Person (with videos)

Jeff Saturday and Robert Kraft

Jeff Saturday and Robert Kraft

ESPN’s Adam Schefter announced on twitter today that former Colts All-Pro center Jeff Saturday is now “Packer People.”

Looking at Saturday’s career and actions on and off the field, if such a thing as “Packer People” exists, Saturday would certainly embody it.  You may remember Saturday’s heartfelt words thanking Patriot’s owner Robert Kraft for “saving football” while dealing with his wife’s illness at the end of last year’s lockout.

Saturday is a devout Christian and a popular motivational speaker,  speaking on leadership and teamwork.

On the field, Saturday is a 5-time Pro Bowl selection (as recent as 2010) and a 4-time All-Pro.  According to his agent Ralph Cindrich, Saturday signed a two-year deal with the Packers.

Saturday will be 37 years old by the time the season starts and this will most likely be his last contract in the NFL.  Still, I can’t think of a better stop-gap to lead the Packers offensive line while the Packers look to draft and prepare a center for the future.

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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16

March

Packers Center of Attention to Change: Wells Gone, Myers Signs With Houston

Scott Wells signs with the St. Louis Rams

Scott Wells signs with the St. Louis Rams

Packers Free Agent center Scott Wells is gone. His management company has announced that  Wells signed a contract today with the St. Louis Rams. According to Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Wells signed a four year deal at six million per year with 13 million guaranteed. The Packers are believed to have offered Wells 4.5 million per year.

Houston’s free agent center Chris Myers, rumored to be on the Packer’s radar (I didn’t particularly believe it), is also now off the market. Myers re-upped with the Texans, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Schefter is reporting that Myers contract with Houston is for 4 years at $25million, $14mil fully guaranteed.

Wells and Myers signed very similar contracts, which in the Packers’ opinion (and mine), is way too high for a center over 30 years old.

When reports came out about the Packers talking to Myers, I never really believed it was serious. Tthe Packers have shown they will resign their own free agents first (especially if getting a hometown discount). Going after Myers, similar in age and salary as Wells, made no sense. Most likely it was strictly a leverage play on Wells.

So where do the Packers look now? There are some other free agent centers on the market, but I find it unlikely they will give anyone a long term deal. Perhaps the logical thing to do would be to offer a 1-2 year deal to someone like 35 yr old Todd McClure, who had been the staring center for the Falcons for the last 12 years. That would allow then to then draft and develop a center from the upcoming NFL Draft.

Personally, I’m not holding my breath on the Packers signing a center. I think they will draft someone at the position and give the job to Evan Dietrich Smith at least for this season. Next man up!

 

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Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.

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12

March

Packers: Scott Wells “Appears Headed” to Free Agency

Scott Wells is likely to hit free agency, which opens Tuesday.

Barring any late change of heart or mind, Green Bay Packers center Scott Wells will get to the start of free agency without a new contract from the Packers.

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wells “appears headed for free agency barring a last-minute deal.” The sides are still far apart on what the value of Wells’ new contract should be.

In my opinion, the two sides are playing a game of chicken, with the Packers going low and Wells going high and waiting to see which side breaks first. My guess is that the Packers are going to have to give in some, but whether it’s enough to sign Wells, I don’t know. Wells remembers that the Packers gave up on him two years ago only to see him beat out Jason Spitz for the starting job and become one of the most valuable players on the offensive line.

It appears that Wells is wanting a contract that puts him on par with the top centers in the NFL, somewhere in the $7-8 million a year range. The Packers are almost certain not to give him that kind of money, especially considering Wells will be 32 at the end of 2012-13 season and is a touch undersized for the position.

Given that wide impasse in yearly negotiations, the Packers are likely to let Wells scour the open market. Once there, it’s possible Wells will find out a harsher truth about his real value and the Packers will be able to negotiate a more cap-friendly deal for the veteran center.

GM Ted Thompson has seen this same scenario unfold with left tackle Chad Clifton and receiver James Jones, both of which got to free agency but re-signed with the Packers once they got a better grasp at what free agency valued them at.

Clifton flirted with the Washington Redskins back in 2010 but shortly returned on a three-year deal with the Packers. Jones was widely assumed to be finding a team that would make him a more targeted receiver last offseason but found no satisfying offers. He also returned on a three-year deal.

Despite that fact, Wells still has leverage in the talks because he’s coming off a Pro Bowl season and back-to-back years when many considered him one of the NFL’s top centers.

4

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: David Molk, C Michigan

David Molk, C Michigan: NFL Draft prospect profile

David Molk, C Michigan

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: David Molk

Player information:

  • David Molk, C Michigan
  • 6-foot-1, 298lbs
  • The Illinois native was ranked as the No. 3 center in the nation out of HS by Scout .com

NFL Combine:

  • 41 bench press reps

News & Notes:

Molk was named First Team All American and took home the 2011 Rimington Trophy Winner as the nation’s best center. Surprised many by weighing in at 298lbs at the combine (10-15 lbs. over his playing weight at Michigan). Did not participate in field drills at the combine due to a foot injury.  Molk is a workout warrior, as his 41 combine bench press reps and massive 22inch neck will attest.

What they’re saying about him:

Wes Bunting (National Football Post):  Shorter, compact lineman who looks nearly maxed out physically, despite weighing 288-pounds. Looks a little tight hipped trying to sit into his stance, but has a quick first step, and snaps and steps very quickly. Creates leverage for himself consistently, extends his arms and can easily reach and seal on plays off his frame… A perfect fit for the Michigan’s run first spread offense where he consistently plays to his strengths. However, he’s an overachiever who looks like a potential starter in only a zone scheme in my view.

Dane Brugler (CBS Sports):    Molk doesn’t look like much, but he is very aggressive and plays bigger than he appears. Lacks elite physical tools, but you can’t measure heart and desire. He has 42 career starts under his belt and worked through several different offensive systems in Ann Arbor. Battle tested and smart, seasoned veteran. Molk has poor base strength and won’t be for everyone at the next level (scheme-specific), but he is quick, scrappy and competitive with pro intangibles and work ethic. A third or early fourth round prospect who is ideally suited for a zone blocking scheme and does have NFL starting potential.

NFL.com (Combine):   He has good speed for his position and is a strong player. He is slightly underweight, but it hasn’t effected his play much up to this point. He can be late to pick up blitzes at times and struggles in his technique, but he has solid value and should be selected near the fifth round.

Video:

Video analysis: