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Evan Dietrich-Smith Leaves Green Bay for Tampa Bay

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Evan Dietrich-Smith Leaves Green Bay for Tampa Bay

The Green Bay Packers will enter the 2014 season with their fourth starter in four consecutive seasons at the center position after Evan Dietrich-Smith signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a free agent on Friday.

According to Adam Caplan of ESPN, Dietrich-Smith's deal was for $14.25 over four years, including $7.5 million guaranteed. With a deal averaging roughly $3.5 million per season, one could infer that the Packers didn't exactly value Dietrich-Smith very highly with plenty of salary-cap space available.

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has publicly lobbied for the Packers to keep Dietrich-Smith on his weekly radio show on the ESPN Radio affiliates in Milwaukee and Madison, but he'll have a new exchange partner this upcoming season.

Back in February at the NFL Combine, head coach Mike McCarthy said, "If you look at our depth chart right now, this is the best group of offensive linemen from a depth standpoint that we’ve had in my time in Green Bay." Some of that depth has taken at hit with the departure of Dietrich-Smith.

The Packers find themselves back to Square 1 at center after Scott Wells left after being named a Pro Bowler in the 2011 season.

In 2012, the highly-respected Jeff Saturday was signed as a stop-gap solution, but when he proved to be past his prime, Dietrich-Smith was inserted into the starting lineup late in the season, allowing Green Bay to release Saturday the next offseason.

Dietrich-Smith started all 16 games in 2013 and graded out as the eighth-ranked center in the NFL, according to ProFootballFocus.com (premium content).

Over the course of his five-year career in Green Bay, Dietrich-Smith also showed his versatility by being able to play guard as well. In 2012, he notably was the recipient of a stomp from Detroit Lions defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh while filling in at guard.

The Packers are now forced to look for a new starter at center, and the player who may get the first crack is J.C. Tretter, the fourth round draft choice of the Packers' last season.

Tretter may have loads of potential, but the Packers would be taking a major risk by banking on a player who has never played major college football and has never played a single NFL snap. After breaking his ankle during an offseason practice, Tretter began last season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list before being activated to the 53-man roster late last year.

Another in-house option the Packers have at their disposal would be transitioning T.J. Lang to center full-time. Last year, Lang played center in an emergency situation in two games after Dietrich-Smith went down with a knee injury.

Any such move would probably be made in light of how highly the team views Lang at guard. A move to center would represent his third position switch in three seasons, after switching from left guard to right guard last year.

Garth Gerhart, who's been on the practice squad for the past two seasons, is another possibility.

The Packers also have the option of addressing the position in the NFL Draft, although there's not many centers in this year's draft class that are viewed as can't-miss, high-round prospects.

One final avenue available to the Packers could be free agency, where Alex Mack is able to sign with another NFL team despite receiving the transition tag from the Cleveland Browns.

The Browns, however, have the right to match any offer Mack receives. The value of the transition tag for offensive line is just above $10.0 million, although Mack does not have to accept a contract of that value with another team.

Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: on Comments (50) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Zoellner25's picture

Unless the coaches see something very special in Tretter, this is a setback IMO.

Tarynfor12's picture

I would have expected a more moving endorsement from Rodgers if his thoughts on Trettor were low.If ED-S were to be the long term guy,we could have matched this deal.

Jordan's picture

Why in the world would the packers want to pay that outrageous money for EDS when they already have a better replacement on the roster for cheaper?

Stroh's picture

I don't know that there are better options at Center. I like Tretter and think he'll be a good enough player this year to start. But EDS was the #8 Center in the NFL, so getting better is unlikely. I might have considered EDS at the contract he got, but he wasn't under any obligation to give the Packers the right to match. Teams regularly say sign or the offer is off the table.

I don't consider it a big risk, more like a moderate one going w/ Tretter. Certainly some risk involved, but getting another FA will just create the same issue next year. Tretter was drafted to be the long term starter IMO, so better to move forward w/ him than get another one year stop gap. Tretter is smart enough and will have Lang, Sitton and Rodgers to help him, so I'm not too concerned.

Jordan's picture

I would be cautious of that number 8 ranking. Packers played mostly losing teams in 2013.

Stroh's picture

Be that as it may... I think EDS did a competent job as the Center. I don't think he was great. Good works for me... I don't think the Packers will be improved at the position this year. Possibly similar, but long term they'll be much better.

RC Packer Fan's picture

I really only consider it a big risk is if they don't bring in some competition for Tretter. I hope they don't just hand the job to him. Even though I think he could be just fine.

HankScorpio's picture

My guess is TJ Lang replaces EDS and does a much better job than EDS.

Ibleedgreenmore's picture

Not so sure, Lang is a good back up but it is time to get someone in that is young and can develop.

HankScorpio's picture

Lang has been a starter for 3 years now.

BradHTX's picture

I think he meant backup at center, not an all-around backup.

HankScorpio's picture

That's a meaningless distinction in my book. He wasn't competing to be the starting OC. Calling him a "backup OC" is extremely misleading. He's an above average interior OL that hasn't been used much at OC but has shown he can do it. Last year, when EDS got hurt ingame, he slid over with no practice and did fine. I see no reason to think that moving to the spot full time and preparing each week there will make him worse.

Jordan's picture

I don't think it's going to be real hard to replace EDS. Tretter was drafted in the 4th round to replace him. Tretter has a much higher ceiling.

Doesn't really matter if Lang plays center or Tretter plays center. Either way, it's going to be an upgrade over EDS.

Scott Wells was a 7th rounder and had been an absolute disaster for Rams after what they paid him.

EDS was an undrafted free agent.

They'll have a 6th rounder ready to play center/guard too.

HankScorpio's picture

"Doesn't really matter if Lang plays center or Tretter plays center. Either way, it's going to be an upgrade over EDS. "

Definitely agree. The Packers have 5 guys with starting experience. I would say each of the 5 remaining is better than EDS. If Tretter jumps into the top 5, that's a bonus.

ben's picture

EDS has about the same "ceiling" as Tretter. They had virtually the same measureables, with EDS scoring slightly better in the shuttle, cone, 10 yard-split, and bench. The difference lies in EDS having played played professional football as well as having experience at the actual position. Which some people, like Aaron Rodgers, might put some value and appreciate.

Ted should have paid a slight premium on a 2 years deal with EDS. You can't let No Income tax in FLA be the difference in the health and availability of your franchise.

Not a huge mistake now, but could be if we suffer any more losses in the ever so important fumble recovery drill. It's football somebody's going to get hurt.

4thand1's picture

This one makes no sense. ED s played nasty. We need nasty.

Irish_Cheesehead's picture

EDS was average. No big loss, but we do need someone to replace him. Even if Tretter starts we need a backup. I'm more worried about our safety situation.

Jordan's picture

Exactly. No big loss. They have two centers on the roster. Lang and tretter. They'll probably take a g/c in 5-7.

Evan's picture

Neither guys are actually centers...but yeah.

Jordan's picture

You mean "not actually centers" like Max Unger was not actually a center and Jonathan Goodwin was not actually a center?

Evan's picture

I mean "not actually centers" as in "they are not centers."

Could they be converted and succeed like Unger and Goodwin and others? Sure. But the fact remains one hasn't played a single game at center in the NFL or college (Tretter) and the other has played only a handful of snaps (Lang).

So, yeah, neither are actually centers.

(Also, for what it's worth, Lang just said on Twitter that he will not be playing center.)

Jordan's picture

Which is why I've said numerous times, they'll draft a g/c so lang won't have to be the 2nd stringer like he is now.

So what did you think when former WR and undrafted free agent shields started at CB his rookie season?

Stroh's picture

Shields didn't start his rookie year. He was the nickel CB. Maybe, probably, they'll draft an OL in the mid rounds again. THey always do, but Tretter will be the starter. They'll have Lang at OG and if Tretter were to get injured they'd move Lang for that game, then likely have a Center on PS like they have w/ Gerhart the past year or 2.

Jordan's picture

Actually Woodson played a lot of nickel and dime. Shields took Al Harris' spot. Tramon moved to Woodsons old spot. The packers were mostly in nickel and dime after the very first play of the game. Technically shields wasn't the starter, but for all practical purposes he was.

Stroh's picture

Actually Woodson and Tramon were the starting CB's in '10 with Shields coming in in passing situations and Wood moving from outside CB to slot CB. He may have started a few games when the Packers opened the game in nickel, but make no mistake Woodson and Williams were the starting CB's!

ben's picture

every single down in the NFL is a passing situation

I think you 2 just agreed on the rotation, and I think you also said he "started a few games when they opened in the nickel"

so it's probably not all that crazy to say he started as a rookie

ben's picture

or have actually played the position at all or have even played pro football___but yeah that's right.

COW's picture

Can Raji play center?
He seems to be pretty good at sticking to other big guys. The whole getting pushed backward thing might cause problems, though.

Evan's picture

Raji at center? Don't give Ben any ideas.

ben's picture

Raji does seem to lack a little of that nasty aggressive defensive mentality. I'd play raji at center before playing Sharrod at guard, or Brad Jones at ILB over OLB, or Mike Neal at OLB over DE/DT, or Perry at LOLB over 4-3RE, or Morgan Burnett as an "in the box" safety.

I'm glad we got Raji back. He's got true NT size with very elite physical attributes. He'll be worth $4 million+ if he ever decides to turn it on. Bringing back the Nasty Johnny Jolly and drafting another high energy nasty DT/NT prospect in Zach Kerr might help Raji do just that.

thee #1 steal of the 2014 NFL draft, DT/NT Zach Kerr in about the 6th Round. Zach brings it like Jolly, always produces, and has elite physical attributes.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=As0ACtkIgZc

ben's picture

Damn that's some good tape.

His tape reminds me of Dontari Poe and Haloti Ngata with his speed and pursuit to make tackles all over the field. He's got one of the best power swim moves I've ever seen with explosive lateral and up the field movement. He can beat blocks with speed, power, or just rip off them. He's a bigger, quicker, faster Johnny Jolly.

I'd have little problem with taking Kerr in the 2nd round much less the 5th, 6th, or 7th.

COW's picture

whoa.

Allan Murphy's picture

DANG NICE NASTY :)

whaler92's picture

The fact that the powers that be didn't rate EDS highly enough to offer him a good enough deal says everything. TT keeps his own if they're good enough, see Sitton, Lang Nelson etc EDS obviously isn't I'm sure there's a plan and the line will be sorted.

4thand1's picture

Can you say Scott Wells?

Allan Murphy's picture

HE BROKE HIS LEG THE 5TH GAME FOR THE RAMS I REMEBER THAT .

HankScorpio's picture

EDS is not half the player Scott Wells was when he left.

Imma Fubared's picture

Please. This team still needs a lot and really has done nada to improve itself and in my opinion did a few things to make this team worse then last year.
Lions Picked up a fast receiver and are looking at a top receiver in the draft.
Vikes get a nose tackle, 2 dbacks, and resign a top DE.
The Bears now have two new DE pass rushers and a MLB.
And all three draft before we do. So if they think they know what we absolutely need, one of them will pick the guy to screw us.

4thand1's picture

Man your logic is just plain dumb. Draft a player you think a team in your div may want? And pass up a good player you need yourself to improve your own team. Glad your not a GM. Holy fuck.

Stroh's picture

Apparently you haven't noticed... The vikes, leo's and bare's have been making moves in FA to get better every year! Somehow they are always behind the Packers! Go join the fun winning your offseason NFCN title, while the Packers continue to win the regular season NFCN title!

You simply don't get "IT" do you?!!!

COW's picture

As much as TT's methods bother me at times - gotta admit that he's got a hell of a track record when it comes to letting guys walk.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

This is very disappointing. Can't know why EDS left or whether TT tried to keep him. I can't disagree more with many of the comments above. EDS is a big loss. MM won't want to move Lang to center. The packers have no one to play center. No one. Someone obviously will end up playing there, but Tretter has never played center, never played major college ball, and has never played a snap in the NFL. Huge gamble to suggest he will be an upgrade over EDS. Better hope that we get two good tackles out of Bulaga (comes back healthy), Bakhtiari (makes the jump because he was in fact a well below starting LT last year) and Sherrod because it is really hard even for a Kuhn to give help to both tackle positions and to the center.

Stroh's picture

So we're to assume you know more about Tretter's ability to play Center than Thompson or any of the scouts? I don't think so!!

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Not at all. But scouts and GMs have misjudged talent before. I would think that few GMs would pencil in a 4th round rookie as a starter without some qualms. I have posted over the last year that it was unfortunate that Tretter got hurt so early last year. It seems that GB wanted to groom him to replace EDS while EDS was still under contract, which I thought was smart. I posted on another web site today that perhaps Tretter showed something when he came back the last few weeks of the season. If the coaching staff and/or TT saw enough of Tretter, then fine, and I am less uneasy about losing EDS. But if Tretter was not healthy enough to show what he could do when he came off PUP, then even scouts and GMs sometimes make mistakes on prospects. EDS was a known quantity. When Bulaga got hurt, the coaches had seen enough of Bakhtiari to have confidence in him. As well as Bakhtiari did and as good as he might become with an off-season of strength conditioning, I thought he was a well below average LT.

We will see what GB does with the O-line. I think we will get two good starting tackles out of Bulaga (hopefully healthy), Bakhtiari (who I hope/expect makes a jump in his 2nd year) and Sherrod (who I have the highest hopes for as he was a 1st round talent). It is just that w/o EDS, more things have to go right for GB. With EDS, I thought we had a good chance to have an excellent O-line. W/o EDS, more things have to go right, and there is less depth.

Jordan's picture

Less depth? That's what people said when Daren Colledge went to Arizona.

4thand1's picture

Well below a starting LT? Hmmmmmmmmmm, seemed to hold up pretty dam well for 16 games as a rookie. He was a surprise bright spot of any rookie last year.

Thegreatreynoldo's picture

Yes, I agree that Bakhtiari was a surprise bright spot of ANY rookie last year, and to have a 4th round draft pick come in start at LT and be a legitimate player like he was makes him a gem of a draft pick. Plus, he has the potential to get better too, as many players make a jump between their 1st and 2nd years. But, not grading him on a curve, yes, I think his actual play last year was that of a below average starting LT in the NFL. I hope that Tretter turns out to be another 4th round gem, and/or that he showed the coaches enough when he came off PUP that GB was okay with losing EDS. I was excited about how good the O-line could be with EDS at center and Bulaga and Sherrod coming back. Now there is less room for error. We need a couple of things to go right, that's all. Bulaga and Sherrod (health), or a jump from Bakhtiari, and someone to emerge at center. There is plenty or room for optimism at O-line. I really did not mean to diss Bakhtiari.

Jordan's picture

You realize Sitton, Lang, and Tretter are all 4th round picks? Right?

TT seems to be on top of things now.......ever since the debacle of Barbre and Giacomini.....so I'm not worried too much about oline. It seems to be getting better and better. Much better than the Colledge and Spitz days.

Nashville Packer's picture

It would be cool to see a post on center prospects in light of losing EDS. Travis Swanson seems like a worthwhile Day 2 pick.

Mojo's picture

Better with Tretter.

This will prove to be a good nonsigning. If the Pack signed EDS they would be committed to him for three or four years while the better player languished on the bench. In sports, you sometimes have to gamble, take risks and get the superior athletes on the field.

This will end up being a good move.

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