We've broken down the Green Bay Packers' 2013 center, Evan Dietrich-Smith, ad nauseum today, so now it's time to take a look at what is left over on the roster and remains under contract for the 2014 season. Only one player on the team has experience actually playing center in a regular season NFL game, and that's T.J. Lang, the starting right guard.
Many people, especially here at Acme Packing Company, have theorized that Lang could move to center full-time to allow the team to have more flexibility along the right side of the line. Though it's becoming a popular thought, Lang did not perform particularly well at center (though his snaps there were admittedly on short notice), and the rest of the line suffered. Furthermore, though he would have started in a pinch if EDS had to miss a game, it seems like the coaching staff is not crazy about that idea and would rather leave him at guard.
Dietrich-Smith Was Solid in 2013
We look back at the Packers' 2013 center and examine his performance to see if it's worth bringing him back for next season.
That brings us to JC Tretter, who is the wild card. The rookie fourth-round pick missed most of the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list with a broken ankle, but came back late in the season to provide some interior line depth. There's little data to demonstrate whether or not he would be effective. However, the only other time the Packers were faced with an unproven player as the only remaining center was in 2012 when Scott Wells departed in free agency and left EDS as the young starter-in-waiting. Green Bay signed Jeff Saturday to be a veteran starter, and though it didn't work and EDS stepped in late in the season anyway, it's tough to imagine the Packers being willing to move into 2014 by anointing a center who's never played a single snap as the starter.
I'm inclined to agree with that assessment.
Greg Van Roten could provide some depth as a swing player at the guard and center positions, but it's highly unlikely that he's looked at as a legitimate starter candidate. The final "true" center on the roster is practice squad player Garth Gerhart, but since he hasn't been able to make the active roster to this point, it seems highly unlikely that the team is counting on any major contributions from him.
Need rating: 8/10
Ultimately, with so much uncertainty in the players under contract, the Packers do very much need to make a move this off-season to solidify the center position. The logical course of action would be to bring Dietrich-Smith back on a two- or three-year deal. That would keep the continuity of the line in place while not breaking the bank for a free agent, as EDS probably will not command a huge salary on the open market. Furthermore, bringing him back into the fold would allow the team to conserve valuable compensation picks in the 2015 draft, which we all know Ted Thompson loves to have.
Next up: we switch sides of the ball and look at the defense tomorrow, starting with the defensive line.