TAMPA — It appears as though newcomer Evan Dietrich-Smith will be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ starting center after all.
The Bucs initially said that Dietrich-Smith would battle incumbent Jeremy Zuttah for their starter’s job, but the Bucs traded Zuttah on Sunday to the Baltimore Ravens for a fifth-round pick in 2015.
Zuttah, 27, was slated to make $4.5 million this year, so the trade allows the Bucs to reduce that amount from their salary cap, leaving them with approximately $13.3 million worth of space, according to overthecap.com.
Zuttah, a Rutgers product, came to the NFL as a third-round selection (83rd overall) of the Bucs in the 2008 draft and started 76 of the 90 games he played for Tampa Bay.
Zuttah’s strength has always been his versatility, and he made good use of that as he started and played games at both guard spots as well as center during his six-year run with the team.
Zuttah’s departure clears the way for Dietrich-Smith to take over as the starting center on a Bucs offensive line that has undergone an major overhaul in the past few weeks.
The Zuttah trade comes in the wake of the release of starting right guard Davin Joseph and starting left tackle Donald Penn, the latter of whom will be replaced by free-agent acquisition Anthony Collins.
The Bucs have yet to publicly declare a replacement for Joseph, who started all 16 games at right guard last season, nor have they provided an update in recent weeks on the status of projected starting left guard Carl Nicks.
Nicks, who came to the Bucs as a free agent in 2012, continues to recover from a left foot injury and a subsequent MRSA infection that forced him to miss 14 games last season.
Aside from Nicks, the only returning offensive line starter is right tackle Demar Dotson, who Bucs coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht have both spoken highly of this offseason.