After a free-agent frenzy earlier this week, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers showed they still aren’t done.
On Friday, the team announced the signing of former Packers offensive center/guard Evan Dietrich-Smith to a four-year deal worth $14.25 million, including $7.25 million guaranteed.
“Evan is a tough, physical lineman who gives us added size and versatility at the center and guard positions,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said in a statement.
“He is a very intelligent player with a strong work ethic who is hitting his prime and provides more veteran leadership on our offensive line.”
It was a dream come true for the former undrafted free agent, who says he grew up idolizing several Buccaneer legends.
“I actually rooted for the Buccaneers as a kid after meeting John Lynch at a football camp and when he and Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Simeon Rice and Mike Alstott and all those guys won the Super Bowl, I was pretty pumped,” Dietrich-Smith said in a statement issued by the team.
“Hopefully we can do that again. I saw the Buccaneers organization heading in the right direction and when I got to meet the coaching staff I was even more excited.”
But it was more than just childhood nostalgia that made him feel a connection with Tampa Bay. It was the coaching staff.
“I really connected with o-line coach George Warhop and offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford. Then meeting with Lovie Smith was the clincher. I always heard great things about him from other players around the league and I could sense all those things were true while talking to him. I am really excited to be joining the Buccaneers.”
Dietrich-Smith entered the league in 2009 with Green Bay. Following a stint with Seattle in 2010, he returned to the Packers that same season.
He has started 25 of 61 games throughout his career at center and guard and will likely start at center. Last year’s starting center, Jeremy Zuttah, could move to guard, or he could be released, which would free up $4.5 million in cap space.
The Bucs have already released starting right guard Davin Joseph and left tackle Donald Penn. Backup guard/center Ted Larsen, a free agent, signed with the Arizona Cardinals.
According to Pro Football Focus, Dietrich-Smith gave up just five sacks last season in 17 total games. He had an overall grade of +12.1, which was eighth-best among 35 centers playing 400 snaps or more.