The Green Bay Packers lost a terrific center and replaced him with another.
General manager Ted Thompson made his first bold move in free agency since signing Ryan Pickett and Charles Woodson in 2006 by signing Jeff Saturday on Friday. Thompson announced the move on Friday afternoon.
This was a move of necessity for the Packers’ record-setting offense. Scott Wells, 31, is one of the NFL’s best centers and is coming off his first Pro Bowl season. He was ranked the fourth-best center in the league by Pro Football Focus.
With Wells and Aaron Rodgers having started together for four seasons, the Packers’ offense remained a step ahead of defensive coordinators most of the time. Thus, losing Wells to the Rams was a big blow.
Saturday, however, knows all about working with elite quarterbacks, having spent his entire career playing with Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Saturday and Manning formed the league’s premier center-quarterback tandem, and Saturday’s ability to process information and pass it onto his linemates allowed Manning to essentially run the offense from the line of scrimmage.
Nobody does that better than Manning, but Rodgers is recognized as one of the league’s finest line-of-scrimmage quarterbacks.
Saturday, who turns 37 on June 18, was Pro Football Focus’ fifth-ranked center last season.
Saturday (6-foot-2, 295 pounds), who entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of North Carolina, played the first 13 seasons of his career with the Colts, starting 188 games and playing in 197 during that span. He’s been selected to five Pro Bowls (2005 through 2007, 2009 and 2010) and is a two-time All-Pro (2007 and 2009).
Wells, 31, received a four-year deal worth $26 million, including $13 million in guarantees. Terms of Saturday’s contract weren’t immediately available, but given his age, the deal probably isn’t for more than two or three years.
For instance, the Ravens retained 36-year-old center Matt Birk with a three-year contract worth $8.525 million, a deal that included a $2.1 million signing bonus.
With Saturday, the pressure is off of Thompson to draft an immediate starter at the position, but center almost certainly remains a focal point of this draft.
The Packers also signed Daniel Muir on Friday. Muir entered the league in 2007 as an undrafted free agent out of Kent State by signing with Green Bay. Muir (6-2, 312) played for the Colts from 2008 through 2011, starting 26 games and playing in 40 overall. He'll provide depth at defensive end and nose tackle.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.