Friday, March 23, 2012
Jeff Saturday was Packers' best option
By Kevin Seifert
Sorry I'm a bit late weighing in on the Green Bay Packers' agreement with free-agent center Jeff Saturday. For some reason, there were pigs flying past my office window. I went outside to get a better look and found a four-leaf clover in the yard. Then I glanced up to the sky and could have sworn I saw a cow jumping over the moon.
Do not adjust your reading glasses. This is not one of my legendary typos. The Packers did in fact sign an unrestricted free agent, their first in three offseasons, to replace a departed starter. Saturday was a necessary addition for a number of reasons, but mostly because the center position is a rare instance in which the Packers did not groom an obvious replacement for a veteran with an expiring contract.
The Packers weren't able to reach agreement with incumbent Scott Wells, who signed a four-year deal with the St. Louis Rams a week ago. His 2011 backup, Evan Dietrich-Smith, is more of a guard. With an MVP quarterback in their backfield, the Packers clearly weren't ready to roll the dice at center. Finding one ready to start immediately in the draft was a risky proposition at best.
Saturday is a five-time Pro Bowl player, most recently in 2010, and his intelligence was an undermentioned factor in the success of the Indianapolis Colts' sophisticated passing offense. It's easy to imagine him handling his share of the Packers' in-game decision-making with quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Saturday has played 13 seasons and is 36 years old, so it's fair to consider him a short-term replacement. But at the very least, the Packers' offense shouldn't miss much in the transition from Wells, and Saturday should be able to handle a full load of no-huddle plays and other nuances that put strain on a center.
I'm sure general manager Ted Thompson would have preferred an option other than free agency, but the Packers didn't have one in this instance. It's the best short-term move the Packers could have made after Wells' departure, and it gives Thompson a reasonable window in which to draft or otherwise acquire a long-term replacement. We don't yet have the details of Saturday's contract, but it's fair to assume the Packers made a very competitive offer to keep him from rejoining his former quarterback Peyton Manning with the Denver Broncos.
Now pardon me while I go clean up those pig droppings ...