2014 NFL Free Agency: Colts should bring in a veteran like Jonathan Goodwin

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Stampede Blue's free agency series discusses potential players the Indianapolis Colts should target when the new league year begins March 11th.

We've talked about wide receivers. Now, let's focus on the area all you readers want Colts general manager Ryan Grigson to waste millions of owner Jim Irsay's money on: Offensive line.

Please, forgive me if I sound cynical, but we've kind of been there, done that with Grigson and the o-line for the last two years. Samson Satele and Mike McGlynn were duds from the free agency crop of 2012, and both Hugh Thornton and Khaled Holmes struggled mightily as rookies last season despite being 3rd and 4th round picks, respectively, taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.

Grigson has invested significant money and draft picks in the Colts' offensive line. At some point soon, these investments must pay off or Ryan Grigson should probably be shown the door. Applying more precious cap space to the line in 2014 isn't going to solve all the other problems affecting the roster. This is why I'm not going to spend much time in this series on free agent linemen. The Colts cannot afford another Gosder Cherilus, a good player who is massively overpaid for the position he plays: Right tackle.

However, if the Colts want to go after an interior line player, the guy I'd want is San Francisco 49ers center Jonathan Goodwin.

Jonathan Goodwin

Center

6'3, 318 lbs

If Colts head coach Chuck Pagano truly wants his team to become the kind of squad Jim Harbaugh's 49ers are, then why not sign Harbaugh's center? Goodwin has started all 16 games for San Francisco over the last three seasons since he signed there as a free agent in 2011. Since 2009, he has not missed a regular season game due to injury.

80 games!

That's damn impressive.

Compare this to Samson Satele, who has missed 8 games out of 32 the last two seasons.

In addition, the offense the 49ers run is the same Stanford system that Colts offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton - who used to work for Jim Harbaugh in Palo Alto - wants to run in Indy. What better way to make a system work than to get a center who has significant experience running it at the NFL level?

Last season, Goodwin had a PFF ranking of +5.8, which is in the good/solid range. Satele's overall ranking was -12.9, which was one of the worst in the NFL for any center who had at least 750 snaps.

The other benefit is Goodwin's age: 35.

Typically, an older player like this is not desirable, but, in the case of the Colts, I think it's ideal. At some point, Khaled Holmes needs to become the starting center. That's why he was drafted. At least, that better be why he was drafted! A player like Goodwin can play for a year, teach Holmes the system and its techniques, and then ride off if he wishes.

Goodwin's age will also decrease his asking price. Back in 2012, a then-36-year-old Jeff Saturday signed a 2-year, $7.75 million deal with the Packers. That's about what Goodwin will ask for, and he's more than earned it.

Goodwin started all 16 games for the New Orleans Saints in 2009 and 2010. He won a ring in 2009 after his team defeated the Colts in Super Bowl XLIV. He also spent four seasons with the Jets, and was there in New York back when Pep Hamilton was an offensive assistant for them from 2003-2005.

The question really is will Goodwin want to keep playing after San Francisco's meltdown in the NFCCG last season? Does he want to play for another team? Is he willing to become a back-up at some point. Goodwin answered some of those questions for 49ers.com last month:

"Deep down, I'm still willing to," Goodwin said, who cited retirement as a possibility in a chat with reporters last month. "What creates uncertainty for me is being a 35-year-old free agent, which in this time of the NFL, can be tough.

"If I get any offers, I'll sit down with my wife and agent and go from there."

Again, I cannot stress this enough: The players Ryan Grigson invested heavily in last year (Cherilus, Holmes, Thornton, and Thomas) must deliver. If they don't, fire Grigson and get someone who knows how the hell to build an offensive line. Investing millions of dollars in high-priced guys like Browns center Alex Mack is not the way to go. The draft is where offensive line talent must be cultivated, and, since Grigson is a former NFL linemen himself, his knowledge of linemen was supposed to be one of the reasons why Jim Irsay gave the unproven Grigson the G.M. job in 2012.

If a guy like Holmes isn't ready, then sign a stop-gap like Goodwin who is cheap, productive, and as tough as a $2 steak. This way, the team can still protect quarterback Andrew Luck, buy time for a player like Holmes to get acclimated, and not break the bank.

NFL Free Agency: Wide receivers the Colts should target

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