Packers position outlook: Centers/guards


GREEN BAY, Wis. -- We’re in the second week of our position-by-position look at what the Green Bay Packers have and what they need.

We can revisit this process before the draft based on what -- if anything -- general manager Ted Thompson does in free agency.

So far, we’ve looked at quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends and offensive tackles.

Next up, centers and guards.

2014 free agents: C Evan Dietrich-Smith.

The good: Veteran guards T.J. Lang and Josh Sitton, who flip-flopped sides in the offseason, had perhaps their best seasons and helped Dietrich-Smith get through his first full year as the starting center. Lang and Sitton played a key role in the improved running game. Lang and Sitton also were solid in pass protection.

The bad: The Packers may not have found a long-term answer at center. Dietrich-Smith, playing under a one-year restricted free-agent deal, didn’t overwhelm the Packers despite making it through the entire season. Although he's a smart, hard-working player, he struggled at times in the running game. The problem is there’s no other clear-cut option on the roster. JC Tretter may be an option but the former Ivy League tackle at Cornell has never played center before and didn’t get any game action as a rookie after sustaining an ankle injury in the offseason program.

The money: Sitton ($5.2 million) and Lang ($4 million) will be the Packers’ highest-paid offensive linemen in 2014 and their salary-cap numbers are $6.4 million and $5.1 million, respectively. So the Packers may not want to spend much money on their center position. They paid Dietrich-Smith $1.323 million this past season.

Draft priority: The Packers have some developmental guards in Lane Taylor and Greg Van Roten (who also could be an option at center). Teams don’t typically use high draft picks on centers, so it’s unlikely Thompson would address the interior of the line early in the draft.