Last week I wrote about the possibility of the Colts not adding another center in free agency. The further we get the more I think that is what the Colts will do. It sounded like the Colts were done making big moves in free agency from Ryan Grigson's press conference last week and this morning the same feeling was given from Chuck Pagano in a breakfast with several media members at the annual league meetings.
If the Colts truly are done and are satisfied at center, then that leaves Khaled Holmes and Phil Costa as the two battling for the job. It seems clear - even more so than it already was - that the Colts are very high on Khaled Holmes, who they drafted last season.
One thing that's become evident in the past hour w Pagano: he is very high on Khaled Holmes. There's gotta be something there— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) March 25, 2014
Another area that stood out during Pagano breakfast was his constant praise of Khaled Holmes. We'll see if Holmes can beat out Phil Costa— Mike Wells (@MikeWellsNFL) March 25, 2014
Last week, Ryan Grigson said of the two players:
"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."
Grigson called Holmes the "center of the future," and it looks likely at this point that the future he referred to will begin this upcoming season. Both Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson are extremely high on their fourth round draft choice from last season who only managed to see 12 snaps all season despite the Colts' offensive line mess. There must be a reason for it.
To be honest, I have yet to see Holmes work at the NFL level in any capacity other than the 12 snaps he played last season. During training camp he was injured, he wasn't seen much in practice and was hardly seen whatsoever in games. My evaluation of him only extends to 12 NFL snaps and then college film. I was impressed what I saw in those 12 NFL snaps, but to me it raises serious question marks that Holmes was unable to get into the lineup in a more substantial fashion last season with how terrible the center position was for the Colts. I know that Grigson doesn't like playing rookie offensive linemen, but circumstances forced the Colts to start Hugh Thornton in 12 games last year and it would have seemed clear to me to at least play Khaled Holmes based on the circumstances last season, too. All of that said, however, these are concerns of mine based not on his play on the field but on his lack of it. I had no problem with what I saw from Holmes in his 12 snaps last year but the fact that he couldn't get more playing time with the offensive line struggles the Colts had last year makes me very wary of counting on him to fill the center position this year.
Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson, however, have seen Holmes work much more extensively than I have and they obviously have seen some things that make them very high on their second year center. In fact, they're so high on Holmes that they're giving him all the opportunities to earn the starting job, as the only center they have signed so far is Phil Costa. Pagano and Grigson continue to talk up Holmes and it remains very clear that they both like the center a lot. Grigson noted in his press conference last week that the Colts don't need a high profile center, saying:
"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's interesting to me that he used A.Q. Shipley as an example of the type of center the Colts can win with, as he traded Shipley away, but this is not the time for that discussion. What is clear is that Grigson is saying that the Colts can win with a guy who isn't a high profile guy, and that would be Khaled Holmes. Perhaps Holmes can be a guy the Colts can win with and perhaps he can be a center who isn't a liability like Samson Satele was last year. But I think that Grigson is playing a dangerous game with center. He had over $40 million to spend this offseason and still has around $13 million left, with some good centers still available. All indications seem like he is comfortable at center with Holmes and Costa, however, and it is absolutely clear that both Grigson and Pagano are high on Holmes. I'm not saying it won't work out - there's as good of a chance that it will as there is that it won't. But it's risky to count on him to step in and start next season when he has played only 12 snaps at the NFL level, and while Costa provides insurance and depth he isn't great insurance nor great depth. Heck, at this point I think I'd take Mike McGlynn at center over Costa. It seems like the Colts are counting on Khaled Holmes a lot next season, and I'm not going to sit here and say that it's absolutely the wrong move yet. But I'm absolutely going to say that Ryan Grigson is playing a dangerous game with one of the Colts' biggest needs this offseason and a position that helps protect the franchise player, Andrew Luck.