Last year the Colts center position was pretty terrible, with Samson Satele playing there and not playing well. The Colts released Satele earlier this offseason in a no-brainer move, but that left an even bigger hole at the center position.
The Colts signed center Phil Costa shortly after free agency started to a 1-year, $1.7 million contract and they drafted Khaled Holmes in the fourth round last season. Still, it seemed obvious to most that the center position wasn't adequately addressed and that there would certainly be another move.
But what if there isn't?
This morning, in a conference call with Indianapolis media, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson had some very interesting comments. Firstly, he gave an update on where the Colts stand in free agency and, well, let's just say it sounds like the Colts are done with any big free agent signings:
"You never say you're done, but if something pops up, I'm always looking at it. If one of my guys brings me a name that is of interest, I'll look at him. We had a plan in place and we feel really good about it. We feel real good where we are at right now. Of course, we are going to look towards the draft, but again you never say never. We are always trying to get better. If somebody pops up here and they make sense from a roster standpoint and they fit the specs - age, and money, and big picture, then I'll look at it."
Grigson was later asked specifically about the offensive line:
"Right now, we have some talented guys, some big bodies, some guys with experience, they are coming off injury. You look at those guys that are UFAs and you look through them, if they make sense then you make a run for them. But we feel pretty good where we are at. The center position was one, we signed Phil Costa. He's a tough, young center that has started games. We drafted Khaled Holmes to be that center of the future. He never got a chance in camp really because of the ankle. He's still a little bit of an unknown at the professional level. It's going to be a good competition. You always like to be able to plug in a Pro Bowler there or someone that's a five-year starter and have that luxury. But I'll say this to make this point, you guys had great success here with (Jeff) Saturday who was a CFA who I think was stocking shelves for some time before they brought him in. Heck, A.Q. Shipley was out for a year and came in and played good snaps here and helped us win 11 games. Even more about center in general. I've fortunately been to three Super Bowls with two teams and on those three teams, all three of those centers were CFAs. That's a position where you can find a quality guy and you don't always need to have a high profile player at that spot."
It seems that the Colts are fine with where they stand at center and that Grigson is confident in his ability to find a low-profile guy who can come in and play (he even used the example of A.Q. Shipley, who Grigson might finally realize he shouldn't have traded away). Certainly there is a legitimate possibility that Grigson is just playing things close to the chest (like he usually does) and that he doesn't want to give away much information at all. That's a real possibility and I'm not ruling it out at all. But at the same time, I think we need to at least consider the possibility that the Colts are going to go with Khaled Holmes and Phil Costa as the ones battling at the center position because that's the feeling Ryan Grigson gave in his press conference today. Whether or not it's true or not I don't know, but the general manager of the Colts said it so it's worth paying attention to, at very least.
So, what if the Colts are largely done addressing the center position? Well, firstly I would consider it a major failure on Ryan Grigson's part because he entered the offseason with more than $40 million to spend and with center one of the biggest needs. Even still, the Colts have roughly $13 million in cap room - there is plenty of money to add a good center. Maybe not Alex Mack, but probably enough to get almost any other available center. And about Mack, it seems like the Colts are moving on from him. They were interested at one point, but I don't think they are anymore. Just a guess based on what I'm hearing (or what I'm not hearing), but I wouldn't expect Mack at all. Even still, there are other possibilities for the Colts, and if they enter training camp with Holmes and Costa battling for the starting center spot, I'll consider it a big failure for the Colts GM. At this point in the offseason I have given the Colts an "A" grade overall, but if they fail to add another center who is a legitimate starter, you can be sure that the grade won't stay at an "A."
Secondly, it would mean that Khaled Holmes and Phil Costa would battle for the starting center spot. Costa is a guy who appeared in just three games for the Dallas Cowboys last year and Holmes played even less as a rookie for the Colts. In fact, stunningly, Holmes played just 12 snaps last year. Those 12 snaps were good and with the utter awfulness of the line last season, the fact that Holmes couldn't get in more raises serious question marks for me. That is a big red flag. I'm not saying Holmes can't do it, but I'm saying that counting on him to do so is incredibly dumb. Grigson talked about how Holmes is still an unknown, but the reason for that is because for some reason that nobody can explain the Colts didn't play him last year.
Finally, what Ryan Grigson said can technically work. He said that at center you don't need a high profile guy in order to win - and he's right. On most teams the center isn't their best offensive lineman and you can certainly win with a guy on the interior of the line who isn't a superstar. At the same time, however, that means that the rest of the offensive linemen better play well and you still have to make sure that the center isn't a liability like Samson Satele was. The Colts need to protect Andrew Luck and, while they don't need a superstar at center they do need a solid player. With so much money to spend this offseason, there is absolutely no excuse for not at least getting that.
The Colts offensive line honestly is improving. Anthony Castonzo is a good left tackle and Gosder Cherilus is a good right tackle. Donald Thomas looked good at left guard early on last season and Hugh Thornton, though he was terrible last season at left guard, hopefully will improve in his second season and moving to his more natural position at right guard. The line should be better this year, but they still need a center. There is no excuse for not getting a legitimate starting center for Ryan Grigson, but based on the general manager's comments today I think we have to at least consider the possibility that Phil Costa and Khaled Holmes will battle for the starting center spot in camp. I'm not saying it will happen and I most definitely don't think it should, but there is no doubt anymore that it is a real possibility.