Jeff Saturday Could Be Good Stopgap Solution For Packers Offensive Line

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Former Colts center Jeff Saturday could be a temporary solution for the Packers offensive line.

The NFL media is atwitter over the latest news and rumors surrounding Peyton Manning, his former center Jeff Saturday, and the Green Bay Packers. In short, Manning has finally chosen the Broncos as his new team, which spells the end of “Tebowmania” in Denver. (But that’s beside the point.) This, of course, sets up the possibility of a “domino effect,” wherein Colts teammates follow Manning to the mountains.

Two players who could have interest in doing this are tight end Dallas Clark and center Jeff Saturday. However, rumbling quietly into this big mill of speculation is that, in addition to the Broncos, Saturday is also scheduled to meet with the Packers. They are, as we all know, trying to fill the void left by Scott Wells, who just signed with the St. Louis Rams.

Keen fans have been quick to question the interest that Ted Thompson apparently has in Saturday. The veteran center will be turning 37 in June and has played his entire 13-year career in front of Peyton Manning – minus last season.

Doesn’t Thompson shun the aging veteran? Isn’t he a bigger proponent of developing his own talent?

Generally speaking, yes.

Nevertheless, there are some valid reasons for the Packers to have interest in Saturday. First and foremost, though, we have to understand that he would be a stopgap lineman – a temporary fix until a long-term replacement could be acquired and/or groomed. Offensive lineman rarely make big impacts their rookie season, especially centers. Even a guy like Peter Konz from Wisconsin would need a healthy amount of time to get used to the offensive system and calls. So drafting a center is more of a long-term solution than a short-term one.

What a lot of people wonder, though, is why Thompson would let a veteran like Scott Wells walk away if he was even going to consider an older player like Saturday. Well, to be frank, it’s not like Wells was given a lot of incentive to return. The Packers stiffed him once when they (stupidly) replaced him with Jason Spitz, and then they obviously couldn’t agree to an extension or new contract before the start of free agency this year.

Besides, the bigger picture here is that we’re looking at a multi-year contract versus a one- or two-year signing. Wells’ agreement with the Rams is worth $24 million over four years and stands as one of the top five contracts for centers. Saturday would probably see a shorter contract with less guaranteed money, though it depends on how the market treats him. The Broncos could offer him a more lucrative deal.

Still, one of the bigger reasons Thompson will drop his players is because of injury, and Saturday has missed only 6 games in his last 192 as a starter. Age will increase the risk factor, but that risk seems pretty low to begin with.

Then there’s the fact that Jeff Saturday is probably the most highly decorated center on the market. He has been selected to the Pro Bowl five times (2005-2010), is a four-time All-Pro selection, was named NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2007, and wears a Super Bowl championship ring. This past year, Pro Football Focus ranked him as the No. 5 center overall, allowing two sacks, no quarterback hits, and nine pressures, all while being flagged just three times.

Oh yeah, and he also played with one of the best quarterbacks in the league.

The consideration of Jeff Saturday as a stopgap replacement for the Green Bay Packers makes more sense than not. Just because it doesn’t look like a “Ted Thompson move” on the surface doesn’t mean that it’s out of the realm of possibilities. By signing Saturday to a short-term deal (which is all he’ll probably get anyway), the Packers take on a low-risk investment until they can groom a replacement center.

Now, Saturday could easily end up signing with the Broncos and follow his long-time quarterback into Denver. In fact, I’d say there’s a better chance of that happening than him signing with the Packers. Heck, the Packers may even decide they don’t want him after his visit.

But I think Saturday is a good example of the reality of the situation. The Packers don’t really have a strong center to plug into the line for 2012, and it’s going to take some time to teach any rookie they draft this year, no matter how much talent he possesses. What they need most is a short-term answer, someone with experience who can pick up the offense quickly and doesn’t come with a lot of risk.

And Jeff Saturday sure seems to fit those credentials pretty well.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • JimR_in_DC

    Even though Manning is going to Denver, it isn’t that strong of a possibility that any of the other Colts players follow him. The Broncos already have players in place, and would have to release them when taking on guys like Saturday or Clark. Their will be cap implications for the Broncos that might not be very attractive (just my speculation). So, if TT & MM likes what they see in Saturday, I hope they make a serious but balanced offer to him. Then we can try to draft our future center.

    • JimR_in_DC

      I just checked the Bronco’s website. Their center is J.D. Walton. They drafted him in 2010 in the 3rd round, he became an immediate starter, and he hasn’t missed a game yet. I seriously doubt the Broncos will want to bench or release a long-term starter to bring in a short-term, aging player just because Manning is comfortable with him. A GM that did that would have to be nuts.

      • Chad Toporski

        As far as I know, Saturday is scheduled to visit with the Broncos, so they must at least be entertaining the idea. Plus, I’ve also read that Walton was less than stellar as a center this season. Doesn’t mean he won’t be their long term answer, but perhaps they wouldn’t mind Saturday to fill the same role he would in Green Bay.

        Not to mention that we’ve seen plenty of “nuts” GMs in the league. ;-)

        • JimR_in_DC

          Probably half (or more) of the GMs in the league are nuts. :D

          • BubbaOne

            PFF has Walton rated as the WORST center in the NFL.

            • JimR_in_DC

              Yikes. So long, Saturday.

            • Tarynfor 12

              He wants to drive Tebow to the airport himself.

  • Savage57

    Makes so much sense to get this guy, even if they have to slightly overspend. I think if TT and MM play the SB favorite position of the GBP to this guy it will really appeal to him as he reaches the end of his career.

    OL is so young (if CLiffy is shown the door) and having an experienced smart guy to “qb” the line and put the ball in AR’s hands is ideal. It would give the Pack the ability to draft a long-term center in the lower rounds and have two years to devevlop him. Higher round picks could be allocated to the D and attend to the issues there.

    Make it so, TT.

  • Zack

    I’m game. bring him in for a 1 -2 year deal if you could get him at 4.5 or less. If not go for a less prestigious guy.

  • Lucas

    Just thought of this…could Lang play center? Are the options of available guards better than the options at center? Cheaper?

  • Ron LC

    The Packers have NO centers on the roster now. As far as I know they’ll need one soon. Let’s just hope if they go with Saturday the deal will be less than Wells’.

    Even heard that Sitton tweeted that TJ will be the Center. So far the FA market has me scratching my head. Hope those in charge have a plan that none of us had figured out yet.

    • CSS

      Hard to say, Ron. Consider the recent history. Frank Winters was a 10th round pick with the Browns and bounced around the league (ineffective) before joining the Packers. Wells was a 7th round pick that was cut, brought onto the practice squad, and subsequently developed with his play not progressing until years 3 and 4.

      Mike Flanagin, a 3rd round pick in the modern era was always hurt and subsequently traded. So, it’s hard to write off guys being developed on the roster, including Genus and EDS.

      Strong guard play on either side of an average center can really hide weaknesses. Packers appear to be set there.

      I realize there are tons of questions come training camp, but this is the least of 22 starting positions that keep me up at night as a franchise when you have a veteran QB, two pro-bowl quality guards and veteran TE’s used as H backs in max pass pro.

      • Oppy

        I tend to agree with your prioritization of the center position.. but at the same time, the Center touches the ball on every play, just like the QB.. That means something.

        That said, I have to think the Packers must like Sampson Genus. They kept him around for a reason, and I can’t believe they really think a just-barely-6-foot-tall guy (yeah, they list him as 6’1″, but I’m not buying it) is going to work out as an NFL OG.

        I’m curious, but not overly worried, about the Packers’ plans for center.

  • Dan

    I would like to hear on Thursday that on Friday we will sign Saturday to play on Sundays. Come on Ted, don’t screw this up.

    • Ron LC

      only once in a lifetime!

  • SchenySchen

    Actually Evan Dietrich-Smith and Sampson Genus are both centers on our roster. Genus is on practice squad. Undrafted fa. He is a big boy 315lbs. He might be our future project. GoPack!

    • Ron LC

      Like I said there are no centers on the roster.

      • JimR_in_DC

        LOL!!! :D

  • Pete Kliman

    Steelers had no problem with a rookie center in their Super Bowl run of 2011 and their lines are asked to do more than ours. I just personally don’t like stop gaps because it just prolonges the problem. Also,don’t want to miss out on a talented crop of centers in this years draft. I would take Brewster in the 2nd round over Saturday.

    • JimR_in_DC

      I would much rather be working on filling Defense holes in the first few rounds than taking a Center.

  • SchenySchen

    With TT and MM’s mantra of next man up, i won’t be totally surprised if they open camp with competition between eds and genus to start the season. Hope thats notthe case but would not shock me. GoPack!