Scott Wells picked a great time to have his best year in the NFL. The 31-year-old center will likely be hitting free agency coming off a season where he was the Green Bay Packers' best offensive lineman and was selected to his first Pro Bowl. And while this is great news for Wells; for the Packers, it could be problematic.
Wells wants to be paid like one of the top centers in the game, and with no centers under contract other than journeyman Evan Dietrich-Smith and Samson Genus, who was on the practice squad last season, Wells has a lot of leverage.
Ted Thompson gets a lot of credit for building the Packers though the draft, and he should. Thompson has built a Super Bowl-winning team almost entirely through the draft.
One of the things that Thompson has done so well, is recognizing when a player is coming to the end of their career with the Packers, and drafting their replacement a year or two ahead of time, giving the player time to grow and develop and allowing the Packers to move on if they feel it is best for the organization.
Thompson drafted Aaron Rodgers after years of Brett Favre's wavering on retirement. Mike Neal was selected in the 2010 to replace Cullen Jenkins, who would be a free agent in 2011. And last year the Packers selected Randall Cobb, who could be the replacement for Donald Driver who is nearing the end of his career.
But Thompson has not had the same foresight with Wells. In fact, the Packers have not spent a draft pick on a center since Junius Coston in 2005, although, Jason Spitz, who was drafted in 2006, was a guard who was converted to center, and was at one time thought to be the replacement for Wells.
If Wells does not come back to the Packers and they don't feel that Dietrich-Smith or Genus is the answer, they do have a few options.
They could use the draft, and hope that Wisconsin center Peter Konz is still available when they pick. Konz is widely regarded as the best center in the draft, and probably the only one who could be a starter on day one.
They could use a combination of the draft and free agency, by picking up a veteran free-agent center such as Dan Koppen or Jeff Saturday, as a stop-gap measure, and drafting a center such as Michigan's David Molk or Baylor's Phillip Blake, in the middle rounds to develop over the next year or two.
Or the final option, which I think is the least likely scenario, they could look at someone like the Houston Texans' free agent Chris Meyers. Although Meyers would be a nice addition to the Packers, he is likely to be looking for a deal in the same range as Wells.
Ultimately, Wells coming back to the Packers makes the most sense for both parties. Wells’ age and the fact that he is slightly undersized may be a turn-off to many teams. And his knowledge of the offense and his relationship with Rodgers make him valuable to the Packers.
My gut feeling is that this will play out in a similar fashion to Chad Clifton’s dip into free agency in 2010. Clifton, who was 33 at the time, garnered interest from other teams, but eventually re-signed with the Packers on a three-year deal that was probably a bit more lucrative then the Packers wanted, but they realized protecting Rodgers was more important than saving a couple million of dollars.
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