According to multiple reports, center Evan Dietrich-Smith has signed a four-year deal worth $14.5 million dollars to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Dietrich-Smith has spent the last four years in Green Bay, and the Packers’ strategy during the free agency period has been to keep things close to the vest and focus on re-signing players, rather than bringing in new talent. Green Bay signed BJ Raji, Mike Neal Andrew Quarless and Sam Shields, but Dietrich-Smith becomes the first big-name player to sign elsewhere (no offense, M.D. Jennings.)
The departure of Dietrich-Smith continues a revolving door at center for the Packers over the last few years, a spot which Jeff Saturday held the position in 2012 after Scott Wells was a constant for Aaron Rodgers (and Brett Favre) from 2006 to 2011. The door is now open at center for general manager Ted Thompson to pony up and sign a marquee free agent like Alex Mack away from the Cleveland Browns, but the more likely scenario is that Green Bay will roll with 23-year old J.C. Tretter, who is making the transition from collegiate tackle to professional center.
The Packers still have upwards of $20 million in cap space to work with, so it remains to be seen what exactly Thompson has in store for the rest of spring. At this point the Packers haven’t been connected to may free agents, and that trend doesn’t seem to be changing.
Dietrich-Smith is a loss for Green Bay. He graded out as ProFootballFocus’ eighth-best center in 2013 and was a solid pass protector for Aaron Rodgers. Now Rodgers will have to develop chemistry with someone else.