When we learned that Packers head coach Mike McCarthy informed Bryan Bulaga that he'll line up at right tackle this upcoming season, the natural follow-up question was, "So who's starting at center?" That query was directed at McCarthy himself, who revealed little of the team's plans.
Mccarthy on center. Talked about Barclay, Sitton, Lang and tretter. All possible.— Pat Mayo-ABC (@patmayo) March 25, 2014
Think McCarthy made it pretty clear that those guys were center "possibilities". Also mention free agency and draft.— Pat Mayo-ABC (@patmayo) March 25, 2014
The inclusion of Josh Sitton seems surprising, but there's no reason at this point to expect him to slide into center. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2009, Sitton's performance has exceeded that of all other Green Bay offensive linemen. While the Packers flipped him from right guard to left prior to 2013, there's little reason to think Sitton would move to a new position again. When Evan Dietrich-Smith missed time last year, it was T.J. Lang, not Sitton, who jumped into center. The best explanation for McCarthy's suggestion is simply that the team doesn't want to tip its hand.
Barring an unlikely acquisition at center -- GM Ted Thompson rarely drafts offensive linemen who didn't play center in college, and a transition inside usually takes a full year -- this position battle should come down to J.C. Tretter and Don Barclay. Tretter missed most of his rookie year to an ankle injury, but he took virtually all of his practice snaps at the center position. The fact that the Packers decided to keep him on the 53 upon recovery rather than stash him on the injured reserve suggests the coaches have a considerable level of trust in his abilities there.
As for Barclay, his only experience at the center position came last offseason when the Packers were looking for ways to get him on the field. By most accounts, Barclay struggled with snapping the ball and seemed out of place. However, he far exceeds Tretter in terms of NFL experience, something offensive line coach James Campen values. That could be enough of an edge for Barclay to win the starting center job.
The only thing that seems certain is that the Packers don't want to address this issue until later in the offseason. Once the draft is over and they have a better idea of who the real contenders are for starting center, the Packers staff will reveal more of their plan for the position.