Quarterback Matt Flynn and tight end Jermichael Finley have commanded most of the free-agent spotlight this offseason in Green Bay, with it being widely assumed that the Packers would eventually come to a deal with highly valuable free agent center Scott Wells sometime in the process.
Not so fast, says Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
While mostly speculating on the issue, McGinn said his best guess would be that "the Packers will play with a new center next season."
A bull-headed approach from the Packers on the value of Wells, who has started 100 regular season games for Green Bay since being drafted in seventh round of the 2004 draft, combined with an equally hot-headed response from the veteran center, who obviously thinks he deserves top-five money at the position after a Pro Bowl season in 2011-12.
Simply put, the Packers don't think Wells is worth as much as the he and his representation do. Wells is undersized and 31 years old; the Packers have some leverage in the talks.
But Wells has just as much leverage, as he has put together back-to-back seasons of Pro Bowl-caliber play and then watched several other centers, who are older and less talented, get big deals on the open market.
McGinn recalls that David Baas, 29 at the time of the contract, signed a five-year, $27.5 million deal with the New York Giants last offseason. At a $5.5 million salary, Baas ranks fifth in the NFL among centers. Ranking ahead of Baas and Wells are Carolina's Ryan Kalil, who makes $8.2 million, New York's Nick Mangold at $7.7 million, St. Louis' Jason Brown at $7.5 million and Tampa Bay's Jeff Faine at $6.3 million.
Wells is certainly looking to chisel his name somewhere in that list of top-paid centers. He likely earned it, too, as Pro Football Focus had Wells as the fourth-highest rated center in the NFL last season.
Overall, the writing on the wall has been there for Wells to get to free agency. I have been of the opinion for a while now that the Packers wouldn't get a deal done with Wells until after free agency had started.
General manager Ted Thompson has to get a better feel for what the market is on Wells, and to be fairly honest, Wells might get a little wakeup call when he finally gets a chance to hear offers from around the league.
There are an abundance of free agent centers available this offseason and Wells likely won't be the top target. Houston's Chris Meyers, who broke out in a big way last season, is likely to be the most pursued center if he hits the open market.
Much like the Packers did with Chad Clifton a couple of years ago, they can let the market dictate a price then start working on a compromise to bring Wells back to Green Bay. In 2010, the Packers re-signed Clifton a few days into free agency to a three-year, $19.6 million deal. Clifton took a visit to Washington to talk with the Redskins but ultimately decided to stay with the Packers.
In the end, no matter how bull-headed both sides may be, it's in everyone's best interest for Wells to be a part of the Green Bay Packers in 2012. Wells could still very easily walk away from the Packers, but don't discount his return just yet. His departure is far from set in stone.
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