What happened in 2011
Decent, unspectacular play. That's what most centers produce, and it's what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers saw out of their own centers this season. Jeff Faine wasn't horrible, but he's declining and that's visible. He's having more and more problems taking on defensive linemen one-on-one, and there's no real drop-off from him to backup center Jeremy Zuttah. Faine once again missed a game with injury, forcing Zuttah to move to center.
Center isn't a difficult position on the offensive line to fill, as centers spend most of their time helping out their guards rather than blocking defensive linemen one-on-one. Intelligence and the ability to set protection schemes are very important, however, and Jeff Faine does do a good job in that respect. The Bucs see very few free rushers get to the quarterback, which in part is a reflection of Faine's ability and in part a reflection of Freeman's.
With mediocre-at-best play and a salary cap number of around $8 million, Jeff Faine's future in Tampa Bay is uncertain. While the Bucs don't need to cut Faine to clear cap room - they're so far under the cap they could sign five top free agents and still have plenty room left - they may want to save $6 million in actual spending by cutting him.
This shouldn't really impact the quality of play in 2012, if the Bucs also re-sign Jeremy Zuttah. Given the fact that Zuttah has been a useful utility player and even played under Greg Schiano at Rutgers, this seems like it would happen fairly quickly. Jeremy Zuttah can start at center, where he should look better than at left guard. The Bucs do need to find a backup for the position, although Ted Larsen could play center in a pinch as well.
There are always some centers teams can plug-and-play available in free agency and late in the draft. It's just not that hard to come by good centers. There's exactly one really good center who will hit free agency this offseason: Chris Myers of the Houston Texans. Of course, Myers operates in a zone-blocking scheme and probably isn't a fit for the Buccaneers - and it seems very unlikely the Texans will let him leave in the first place.
In the draft the Bucs have a few options, most notably Peter Konz, who is the top-rated center in the draft. Behind him Ben Jones and Michael Brewster could get a look too, but I wouldn't expect the Bucs to spend an early-round pick on a center.
Projected 2012 Depth Chart:
Jeremy Zuttah, New Addition