Featured Article Playing The Pivot in Green Bay After Scott Wells left in free agency after the 2011 season and Jeff Saturday retired after a one-year stint in Green Bay, the Packers don’t appear to have committed themselves to appointing a long-term starter. The decision, if and when they come to one, will be important because quarterback Aaron Rodgers is in the prime of his career. In a perfect world, Rodgers will be able to build a rapport with a center that will protect him for the next several seasons. Late last season, the Packers made the switch from Saturday to Evan Dietrich-Smith with two games left in the regular season, a move that appeared to pay dividends. Saturday’s physical skills were obviously in decline, and Dietrich-Smith provided a better anchor and mobility even if he didn’t have the same level of experience. McCarren senses “EDS” could be the solution at the center position. “I think he could be,” said McCarren. “I think he’s got the adequate skill set to do what needs to be done and get the job done, and he’s shown it in big-time games against big-time people.” Despite McCarren’s endorsement, however, DietrichSmith did not play so well that he has entrenched himself as the starter for years to come. When he became a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the 2012 season, the Packers extended only the lowest tender, a one-year contract worth approximately $1.3 million. Dietrich-Smith has the opportunity to test the market, but restricted free agents rarely switch teams. The Packers have the right to match any contract he signs, and almost certainly would. Essentially, “EDS” enters 2013 as a prove-it season. If he performs well enough, the Packers could offer a contract extension at some future point in time.
8 | Cheesehead TV 2013 Draft Preview
All this being said, the Packers may not be comfortable placing all their eggs in one basket with Dietrich-Smith. They could hedge their bets by taking a player like Jones with a mid-round draft choice and say, “Let the best man win.”
Call Him Mr. Flexibility What’s attractive about a player like Jones is that he offers the versatility of being more than just a center. He became a starter during his freshman season and played right guard for his first two years in Tuscaloosa. During his junior year, Jones became Alabama’s left tackle where he became college football’s Outland Trophy winner given to the nation’s most outstanding interior lineman. If that wasn’t enough, he was awarded the Rimington Trophy as the most outstand center his senior season. With such a diverse résumé, it’s fair to ask where Jones is most at ease. “I felt most comfortable where I played last,” said Jones. “If you asked me last year, I would have been most comfortable at left tackle. Right now, I’m definitely most comfortable at center. “I really like center because I enjoy the mental part of it. It’s the most mentally challenging offensive line position. Just to be honest, I’m kind of a control freak. I like that aspect, to be in control. And kind of point out to other people their assignments.” Jones has to prove he’s not simply a product of Alabama’s football factory and that he can be a dominating player in his own right. But perhaps there’s something intangible about coming from ‘Bama, an institution with one of the richest histories in all of college football. In a way, it’s kind of the Green Bay of the South. “I’d love to play in Green Bay,” said Jones. “I’ll play for whoever drafts me, but definitely that would be an honor to play for a team with that kind of tradition.”
A preview of the 2013 NFL Draft, including position profiles on more than 300 players, feature articles and columns.