TAMPA — The Bucs stayed busy with their offseason overhaul Friday, signing their seventh free agent of the week in center Evan Dietrich-Smith. He started every game for the Packers last season and should step into the middle of Tampa Bay's rebuilt line.
"Evan is a tough, physical lineman who gives us added size and versatility at the center and guard positions," Bucs 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."
Dietrich-Smith, 27, has only one season as a full-time starter, but he logged 1,055 snaps in 2013, more than any Bucs offensive player. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers lobbied for Dietrich-Smith's return. But a compelling visit to Tampa along with a deal for four years and $14.25 million ($7.25 million guaranteed) that makes him the 11th highest-paid center in the league by average salary won him over.
"I am really excited to be joining the Buccaneers," Dietrich-Smith, 6 feet 2, 308 pounds, said. "I really connected with O-line coach George Warhop and offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford. Then meeting with (coach) 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."
Dietrich-Smith's arrival could mean the departure of a third starting lineman, center/guard Jeremy Zuttah and his $4.5 million salary. Right guard Davin Joseph and left tackle Donald Penn were cut this week.
The Bucs still have lingering needs that could be addressed soon:
RECEIVER: Steve Smith signed with Baltimore while Hakeem Nicks signed with Indianapolis on Friday. Looking for a complement to Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, the Bucs have hosted Emmanuel Sanders, who has since visited the Chiefs and 49ers. He caught 67 passes for 740 yards and six touchdowns last season for the Steelers.
CORNERBACK: Veteran Charles Tillman, who visited Tampa Bay this week, re-signed with Chicago on Friday. And two second-tier free agents, Cortland Finnegan (Dolphins) and Tarell Brown (Raiders) signed. That leaves limited options. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is likely too expensive, as is former Florida State standout Antonio Cromartie. A veteran is likely to come in to compete with second-year Johnthan Banks and third-year Leonard Johnson alongside free agent signee Alterraun Verner.
GUARD: The Bucs re-signed Jamon Meredith and are pleased with the progress of Carl Nicks, who missed nearly all of last season with a MRSA staph infection. But expect an addition. The club hasn't drafted an offensive lineman since 2009, and guard could be a match for its second-round pick. Prospects include Stanford's David Yankey and UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo. Both are familiar to offensive coordinator and ex-Cal coach Jeff Tedford.