- Associated Press - Friday, March 23, 2012

MILWAUKEE (AP) - The Green Bay Packers made a rare reach into unrestricted free agency to find a new anchor for their offensive line, agreeing to a two-year deal with veteran free agent center Jeff Saturday on Friday.

Saturday’s agent, Ralph Cindrich, confirmed the deal Friday afternoon. ESPN reported the deal earlier Friday.

The 36-year-old Saturday has started 188 regular season games in 13 NFL seasons.

He replaces former Packers starter Scott Wells, who signed with the St. Louis Rams as a free agent.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy and quarterback Aaron Rodgers both have spoken highly of Wells over the past two seasons. He has been the team’s most consistent offensive lineman and played a critical role in dictating blocking schemes.

The addition of Saturday, with his experience in the Colts’ complex offense and quarterback Peyton Manning, should make for a relatively smooth transition.

It’s an uncharacteristic play for a relatively high-profile free agent by Packers general manager Ted Thompson, who built the Packers into consistent contenders primarily by drafting and developing players. Green Bay may still look for a long-term answer at center in next month’s NFL draft to learn the position behind Saturday.

The Packers have signed only a handful of unrestricted free agents away from other teams under Thompson, most notably cornerback Charles Woodson and defensive lineman Ryan Pickett in 2006.

Green Bay did not immediately confirm the deal for Saturday.

Colts owner Jim Irsay wished Saturday well.

“I wanted him to work for (the) team full time but he wanted to go at it one more year … He’s as good of a man as it gets,” Irsay wrote on his Twitter account.

Saturday had been the Colts’ full-time starting center since 2000. He became a fan favorite, a key figure in the NFL Players Association and one of Manning’s closest friends. He visited Green Bay and Tennessee, and there had been speculation he could rejoin Manning in Denver. Saturday also thought about retiring.

Anticipating Saturday’s departure, the Colts signed free agent center Samson Satele to a three-year contract worth $10.8 million, with $5 million guaranteed. Satele has started 74 career games with the Miami Dolphins and Oakland Raiders.


AP Sports Writer Michael Marot contributed to this report.

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