2013 Packers Free Agent Preview: Evan Dietrich-Smith

USA TODAY Sports

The Packers' young center will almost certainly be brought back to Green Bay, but at what cost?

When Scott Wells departed last season in free agency, the Green Bay Packers signed veteran Jeff Saturday to a two-year deal to replace him. Unfortunately for Green Bay, Saturday's play was downright awful, and third-year lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith started the final seven games of the season (including the two playoff games) at center. With his deal up after the 2012 season, Dietrich-Smith is a restricted free agent.

2012 Season

Overall, Dietrich-Smith brought something to the Packers' offensive line that Saturday did not: solid run blocking. Saturday was regularly getting blown up at the point of attack in the run game, while EDS at least was able to hold his own with some consistency. He also was at least competent in pass blocking. While EDS won't be mistaken for an All-Pro center, he was at least a respectable option over the final month of the regular season and into the playoffs. Overall, EDS received a positive grade of +3.2 from Pro Football Focus for the season.

Team Need

Without Dierich-Smith on the roster, the Packers would not have a single player on the roster who has taken a snap at center in an NFL regular-season game. There are some talented centers in this year's draft (Travis Frederick and Barrett Jones especially), but even if the Packers draft one of them it would be crucial to have a veteran at the position to help with the transition to a rookie, especially at a mentally challenging position like center.

Likelihood of Re-Signing

It seems that the Packers do not have any other players on the roster who can feasibly play center at a league-average level or even below-league average level. EDS will almost certainly get a tender from Ted Thompson and company (my money is on a second-round tender) and may be a candidate for a contract extension depending on the results of this year's draft. The only way I could see him leaving Green Bay is if a team who's absolutely desperate for a new center and who isn't in position to draft a rookie would be willing to commit several millions of dollars to an unproven young lineman. I don't see that happening here.

Overall odds of re-signing: 98%

Other Packers Free Agent Previews:

Greg Jennings | Cedric Benson | Erik Walden | Brad Jones | Ryan Grant | Sam Shields | Tom Crabtree | Frank Zombo

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