Dec 23, 2012; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers center Evan Dietrich-Smith (62) during the game against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field. The Packers won 55-7. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Free Agency 2014: With Shields locked up, Packers turn attention to Dietrich-Smith

NFL Free Agency 2014 is quickly approaching, and teams are starting to dig deep to retain their key players.

The Green Bay Packers took care of one key free agent today, locking up cornerback Sam Shields to a four-year, $39 million deal. Now their attention must turn to the position of center, where they don’t want to make the same mistake with Evan Dietrich-Smith that they did two years ago with Scott Wells.

In 2012, Wells contract was expiring, and the Packers seemed confident of his return. But the St. Louis Rams swooped in and gave Wells a fat deal, leaving the Packers scrambling for help at center that season.

Last year Dietrich-Smith gave the Packers some stability at center in replacement for the aging (and declining) and now retired Jeff Saturday, and with no real options sitting behind him, they’ll need to get him signed to a deal soon.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Tom Silverstein states that the Packers and Dietrich-Smith’s agent Brian Parker are engaged in talks, but haven’t come to an agreement yet.

Parker and Packers negotiator Russ Ball were seen speaking with one another at the scouting combine two weeks ago, and a source who knows Dietrich-Smith well said the Packers have made it clear they want the veteran back. The sides have been talking about a long-term deal but haven’t reached common ground.

Once Saturday hits (the day of the week, not the retired center), Dietrich-Smith will be able to speak with other teams, and that will up the pressure on the Packers.

Having an anchor to help protect franchise quarterback Aaron Rodgers is a priority for the Packers, so it may come down to Green Bay paying whatever price it is that Dietrich-Smith and his agent ask.

Tags: Evan Dietrich-smith Green Bay Packers NFL Free Agency 2014

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