After reading the article this morning by Josh Wilson (which was terrific) I started to look around the interwebs at some past articles prior to the start of free agency. It was interesting to go back a few weeks and see the players being offered up as a solid FA at position of Center.
NFL.com in particular had a very telling article here. In it, they listed the top 101 free agents, breaking it down by tiers. Tier 1 being a Difference Maker, Tier 2 an Impact Starter, Tier 3 a Starter with Questions and Tier 4 Effective In The Right Role.
Of the 101 players, the Colts had the potential choice of one Tier 1 Center Alex Mack ( Ranked 4th out of the 101 players listed ) and Brian de la Puente was Tier 4 Center (91st overall in their ranking). Those were the only two Centers on the list, and DLP was tagged with the comment: "It's telling that the Saints aren't going nuts to re-sign him." And that is very accurate, because DLP was atrocious at times last year.
The bottom line is that there's just not a whole lot to pick and choose from in the available pool of FA's at center. If we don't land Mack, then we're just kidding ourselves with getting another FA this year. It's quite possible that we could move a "step up" from the level of Costas, but I think it's just as possible that a rookie Center from the first three rounds of the 2014 draft could outplay both Holmes and Costas, and any other FA (other than Mack) once he gets through camp. It might be against the odds, but with the lack of significant talent at the position, it's an actual possibility this year.
Those Centers that are possible picks (but still unlikely all will) gone in the first three rounds?
1. Travis Swanson, Arkansas
2. Weston Richburgh, Colorado State
3. Marcus Martin, USC
4. Bryan Stork, Florida State
So it looks as if Grigson is between the proverbial rock and a hard place, but is it solely of his own doing. A quick look back to 2013 and we see that in Round 1, the Colts took Bjoern Werner with the 24th pick. Center Travis Frederick out of Wisconsin was still on the board. In Round 2 we had no pick and no Center was selected in that round by any team. In Round 3, again, no Center was selected and Grigson selected Guard Hugh Thornton of Illinois. In Round 4, the Colts picked up Holmes - who was the only Center drafted in that round. Round 5 saw no selection of a Center, while in Round 6 KC selected Eric Kush from Cal prior to Indy's selection of RB Boyett, while the Ravens added Ryan Jensen, Center out of Colorado State. Round 7 saw only one selection of a Center, as the Bengals used pick #251 on T.J. Johnson of South Carolina.
That gives us a total of 5 rookie Centers that came into the league in 2013. Of those, only Travis Frederick has amounted to a starting caliber player - but he was a first round selection. Holmes, the second highest drafted Center, was kept on the sidelines most of the 2013 season. Of the remaining 3, all have made and stayed on their respective rosters. Kush is #2 OC for the Chiefs, while Jensen (Ravens) and Johnson (Bengals) are both #3 on their respective depth charts heading into the 2014 season.
Time will tell if the selection of Werner over Frederick was the appropriate call. In the meantime, Grigson will now have to either has to go "All in" on Mack, or go with a rookie Center to learn behind Costas and hopefully overtake him and Holmes to get to the starting slot. But we all watched last season as Holmes was kept off the field.
I would be interested in knowing whether Holmes was kept out of the action to make sure he didn't get re-injured (or was still working on recovery) or he was kept out because he wasn't fully ready for the role. Or a combo of the two. Whatever the reason, it looks to be a situation that comes down to luck. And not the kind wearing #12. Basically we're down to three options:
1) We're lucky to work a deal to sign Mack and we have our starter + a youngster learning the trade from a superstar + a backup OLineman.
2) We're lucky enough to see Holmes "rise up out of the ashes" and become our competent, solid starter - awesome. Problem solved. If not, and we fail to land Mack, we must then hope Costas can hold down the fort.
3) We're lucky enough to bypass the temptation of going "all in" on Mack and then we draft another rookie Center and plan on him taking over the starting role.
I'll let you decide which of these 3 options look the most appealing (or attainable) as well as await suggestions for a possible fourth (or even a fifth?) option.