Scott Wells is gone, and nothing is bringing him back to Green Bay.
The free agent center signed with the St. Louis Rams last week leaving the Packers with a vacancy at their starting center position.
Option No. 1 and the best option available for replacing Wells would be to sign veteran free agent Jeff Saturday.
The drawback to signing him, of course, is his age. Saturday will be entering his 14th season in the NFL in 2012 and will be 37 years old when the season starts.
If it was anyone other than Jeff Saturday, that would be a concern. But this is Jeff Saturday we're talking about, the man considered to be one of the best centers in the NFL for much of the past decade.
That day is past, however, but Saturday should still have enough gas left in the tank for at least one more average to above-average season, which is all the Packers can ask at this point.
The top free agent centers are off the market such as Wells, Chris Myers, who re-signed with the Houston Texans, and Samson Satele, who reportedly recently agreed to a contract with the Indianapolis Colts.
One option the Packers have to fill the void at center is through the NFL Draft, but that's always a crap shoot.
Wisconsin's Peter Konz is generally regarded as the top center prospect in this year's Draft class, and the Packers could be absolutely enamored with him, but there's no guarantee they can select him in the first round.
First of all, Konz may not last until the 28th overall pick where the Packers are scheduled to select, and there's always the possibility that another team would be willing to trade up to select Konz as well.
Even if the Packers did happen to draft Konz, there's also no guarantee he'll be ready to become a starter his first year in the NFL. Just look at Derek Sherrod this past season as a case-in-point.
Signing Saturday would be a stop-gap solution, no doubt about it. But at this point, the Packers don't have much of a choice. At least by signing Saturday, it bides them a year to find their long-term solution at center, which is probably by drafting and grooming a rookie to take over eventually.
And who better to learn from than Saturday?
It would definitely take some time for Saturday to learn the offense, become adjusted to making line calls and working with Aaron Rodgers, but those are not obstacles that cannot be overcome.
What the Packers need to do is tell Saturday he'd be the unquestioned starter from Day 1, get him in the offseason program to start learning the offense and start putting their faith in him.
Green Bay can afford to pay him a starter's salary in upwards of $3 million for one year. That's a pittance to pay for a knowledgeable veteran the Packers can trust to make a run at the Super Bowl.
They can even offer him a multi-year contract so long as the contract is structured in such a way that the Packers wouldn't take a salary cap hit in future years if they decide he can no longer play or they have better, younger options and cut him.
The ball would be in Saturday's court. He's an unrestricted free agent and free to sign with any team he chooses. He's reportedly visiting the Denver Broncos, which makes sense seeing as he could re-unite with quarterback Peyton Manning. In addition, Denver is a place that the incumbent starter, third-year player J.D. Walton, didn't exactly set the world on fire in 2011.
If Saturday is hell-bent on signing with Denver, there's nothing the Packers can do about that. But he was at least intrigued enough by the Packers to visit them this past weekend. They least the Packers can do is make a competitive offer.
Giving Saturday a large contract might cause the Packers some trouble when trying to extend some of their future free agents to contract extensions such as wide receiver Greg Jennings, quarterback Aaron Rodgers and linebacker Clay Matthews. But at the same time, salary cap space can be made for them by cutting tackle Chad Clifton and perhaps wide receiver Donald Driver.
The Packers also have to take into effect how signing Saturday would affect the compensatory draft choices the Packers could earn for more free agent losses than gains, but having a reliable center on a Super Bowl contending team would still seem to outweigh any draft choice the Packers would receive in 2013.
If the Packers can't land Saturday, the free agent market dries up considerably with the best remaining options including Dan Koppen of the New England Patriots, Jason Brown of the St. Louis Rams and Jeff Faine of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Packers then would have to consider whether they're better off signing a free agent or going with holdovers such as Evan Dietrich-Smith or Sampson Genus.
Regardless, Saturday would be a better option than any of them. At least for one year.
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