The events of Monday, with word getting out that the New York Giants will be cutting veteran center David Baas, made it pretty obvious that the Giants will be pursuing a center in free agency. The market officially opens at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday, and there has also been word that the Giants have been in contact with both premier unrestricted free agent centers, Evan Dietrich-Smith of the Green Bay Packers and Brian De La Puente of the New Orleans Saints.
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Let's look quickly at both players.
Dietrich-Smith will be 28 this season. He signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent back in 2009 and was a full-time starter at center for the first time in 2013. Word has been that the Packers want to keep him.
Here is Pro Football Focus discussing EDS:
It is very possible when we look back from this group of free agent centers that Dietrich-Smith will be seen as the best of the group. In his only season as full-time starter, he managed to post a very strong overall grade of +14.2. Dietrich-Smith came into the league as an undrafted tackle out of Idaho State and the Packers tried him as a guard/center backup in 2011 and 2012 — when he started for them as a guard in 2011 he struggled, grading at -7.6 in only 322 snaps. The move to full-time center in 2013 was a good one for both player and team.
Dietrich-Smith will have a lot of question marks over his head, since he has only played 1,420 snaps at center. In the short time that he played the position in 2012 (155 snaps), he graded out as a league-average run blocker and in 2013 took a step in the right direction, finishing among the Top 15 centers in that regard. The upside of Dietrich-Smith is very high; if he can continue to improve every season he might the steal of the group.
Brian De La Puente
De La Puente will be 29 this season. He has been the Saints' starting center for the past three years and has not missed a game. De La Puente came into the league as an undrafted free agent in 2008.
Here is Pro Football Focus discussing BDLP:De La Puente is a good pass-blocking center; in his three seasons as a starter he has never posted a Pass Blocking Efficiency under 98.2 and has given up a total of 46 pressures in 2144 passing snaps. In his best season as a pro, 2012, De La Puente managed to take his pass-blocking skill set and add to it by drastically improving his run blocking. In 2011 and 2013 he put up a poor combined run blocking grade of -8.5, but showed in 2012 what he was capable of by recording a +13.6.
With De La Puente turning 29 before the season, interested teams will either have to accept the idea that he is simply good pass blocker who struggles in the run game, or bank on him regaining his form from 2012. The team that adds De La Puente to their roster will be getting a reliable player who, in the past three seasons, has not missed any time due to injury.