PHOENIX - JC Tretter finally gets the chance to have a starting center position all to himself.
It’s a job he held in spurts over his first four seasons with the Green Bay Packers. Tretter, a fourth-round draft pick, started the first seven games last season. He was expected to replace former Packers center Evan Smith before a preseason knee injury derailed those plans in 2014.
But Tretter’s starts always came when Corey Linsley was injured. Like the three games he started late in 2015 when Linsley was sidelined with a sprained ankle. Tretter then started the first seven games of the 2016 season because Linsley was on the physically unable to perform list (hamstring injury).
Now, Tretter gets his shot. He signed a three-year, $16.5 million contract with the Cleveland Browns that includes $10 million guaranteed. It wasn’t to be a backup, even though Tretter can play each spot on the offensive line.
“We brought him in to play center,” Browns coach Hue Jackson said Tuesday morning at the NFL owners meetings. “We know that there is versatility to him that he can fill in a lot of different places, which gives you an advantage. But we’re going to stick him at center and let him go.”
Jackson said he was especially impressed with Tretter’s athleticism and intelligence, key attributes to play in the middle of an offensive line. He’ll have to stay healthy to keep his job, no different than in Green Bay. But there’s no Linsley capably filling the center spot.
For Tretter, it’s an opportunity to do what he only has shown flashes of early in his career.
“He’s coming from a winning organization,” Jackson said, “but more so I think he knows how to play the game. So I think he brings another element of a rough, tough guy who knows how to play, and play in the elements which we play in — the rain, snow, cold. He knows how to handle that.”