Evan Dietrich-Smith

The Green Bay Packers met with center Evan Dietrich-Smith‘s agent at the combine this week and there’s a good chance they’ve discussed a new contract.

One way or another, the Packers have a decision to make on Dietrich-Smith, who replaced Jeff Saturday as the team’s starting center late in the 2012 season. He’s set to be a restricted free agent and it’s pretty obvious the Packers will need to retain him. The question is how they go about it.

They’ll first need to tender Dietrich-Smith a contract, which will reportedly carry either first or second-round compensation. That gives the Packers the right to match any offer Dietrich-Smith receives. It also gives them a draft pick as compensation if he signs elsewhere.

Much like players who receive the franchise tag, these restricted free agent tenders are offered as one-year deals.

The caveat is, the higher the tender, the more the Packers will be forced to pay Dietrich-Smith.

The Packers could make all of that moot by just working out a long-term deal prior to free agency. Or they could just let him play on his one-year tender and reevaluate after the season.

Either way, there’s really no danger of losing Dietrich-Smith if he’s given the first or second-round tender. No team is going to be in a rush to give up that kind of draft pick for a relatively unproven player. And one who plays center, at that.

Essentially, either of the the high tenders will give the Packers exclusive negotiating rights. Our guess is they choose the second-rounder.

So why do the Packers have to sign this guy?

Mainly because they don’t have another center on the roster since Saturday’s release/retirement. Surely, the Packers could draft a center to replace or compete with Dietrich-Smith, but there’s no guarantee that guy would be any better.

Unless they find a center to draft in the first round, which seems like a completely unlikely direction, the Packers don’t have many options for a ready-made replacement.

The good news for the Packers is, Dietrich-Smith will have little to no leverage because of the high tender. A deal should be relatively easy to work out.

Is this your center of the future? You better hope so.