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Free-agent countdown: No. 3 Evan Dietrich-Smith

Mar. 3, 2014
 
Green Bay Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith, left. File/Press-Gazette Media
Green Bay Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith, left. File/Press-Gazette Media

2014 free-agent countdown

20. Chris Banjo, safety (Re-signed Feb. 26)
19. Seneca Wallace, quarterback
18. Kahlil Bell, running back
17. Robert Francois, inside linebacker
16. Marshall Newhouse, offensive lineman
15. C.J. Wilson, defensive lineman
14. M.D. Jennings, safety
13. Jamari Lattimore, inside linebacker
12. Johnny Jolly, defensive line
11. Matt Flynn, quarterback
10. Andrew Quarless, tight end
9. James Starks, running back
8. Ryan Pickett, defensive line
7. Jermichael Finley, tight end
6. Mike Neal, outside linebacker/defensive line
5. John Kuhn, fullback
4. James Jones, wide receiver
3. Evan Dietrich-Smith, center

More

The Green Bay Packers made a bold move in pushing their chips into the middle with Evan Dietrich-Smith as their starting center last summer.

Could JC Tretter have competed for the job had he not broken his ankle during the first day of organized team activities? Possibly, but bringing no other competition into camp spoke volumes.

Dietrich-Smith, who’ll turn 28 this summer, earned the position regardless and was invaluable once the season began with no natural center working behind him. The two games in which he left with knee injuries sent shockwaves through the line.

Working under a one-year, $1.3 million deal, the former undrafted free agent now faces a much different landscape than the one he met following his 2010 release from Green Bay and Seattle. There’s sure to be a market, but whether Green Bay will be among those teams is up for debate.

The Packers are locked into two interior linemen – Josh Sitton and T.J. Lang – through the 2016 season. Bryan Bulaga is also a soon-to-be free agent as he enters the last year of his 2010 rookie contract.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said at the NFL scouting combine he feels the offensive line is as deep as it’s been in his time in Green Bay. During the season, Aaron Rodgers went to bat for Dietrich-Smith, saying he sees Dietrich-Smith as a center with whom he can go on a five- or six-year run.

The Packers and offensive line coach James Campen seem high on Tretter’s potential, but it would’ve been easier to make a determination on the former Cornell tackle’s progress had he been able to practice more than the last month of the season.

Dietrich-Smith was a significant upgrade over Jeff Saturday, who simply got too old, but was it enough to convince the Packers to pay him as their anchor for years to come?

According to Pro Football Focus, they could've done a lot worse. Dietrich-Smith tied for eighth in fewest hurries allowed this season in pass blocking (14) and helped the run game's production with his ability to get into the second level on blocks.

If Dietrich-Smith leaves, Rodgers would be behind his fourth different starting center in four years.

No. 3 Evan Dietrich-Smith, fourth-year center

The skinny: Unrestricted free agent.

The snaps: 1,057 total (1,055 offense, 2 special teams).

The stats: 14 pressures via Pro Football Focus (5 sacks, 1 hit, 8 hurries).

The 2013 salary: $1,323,000.

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