There has been no position more discussed amongst Colts fans this offseason than the center position. It started last season, with Samson Satele being a liability at the position in the middle of the Colts offensive line and with the Colts then making the easy decision to cut Satele this offseason, saving quite a bit of cap room too.
But, with the release of Satele, it left a hole that the Colts needed to address at the center position. They have made only one move at the position so far this offseason in free agency, and that was signing Phil Costa.
Costa was a two-year starter at Maryland, playing both guard and center but especially excelling at center in his senior season. He wasn't drafted in the 2010 NFL Draft but was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dallas Cowboys. In 2010 he made the 53-man roster as a backup center after an impressive showing in camp and preseason. He played some guard and center that year, playing in 4 games and starting 1 (at guard). In 2011 he became the starting center and started all 16 games, though struggling while doing so. In 2012 he looked much better than he did in 2011 but after only 3 games his season was ended due to a dislocated ankle. In the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft the Cowboys selected center Travis Frederick out of Wisconsin and it was then clear that Costa would be the backup center. He appeared in only 3 games last season, starting zero after being re-signed to a two year deal prior to the season by the Cowboys. On March 7, 2014, the Cowboys released Costa, making him a free agent, and less than a week later he signed with the Colts after drawing interest from several teams.
Admittedly, Costa was thrown into the starting lineup for the 2011 season after the lockout and as a player with a lot of development left to make before being capable of being a starting center in the NFL. That resulted in him looking overwhelmed and outmatched in the 2011 season with the Cowboys, as he is a bit undersized as well for an NFL center. He was improved early on in the 2012 season, and the hope is that the improvement has continued. At the same time, however, the Cowboys obviously didn't see enough improvement to continue starting him in 2013 and in fact he only appeared in 3 games last season before being released this offseason. The Cowboys reportedly re-thought releasing him after the NFL salary cap was raised this offseason but ended up doing so anyway. The Patriots, Lions, Bengals, among others, had interest in Costa before he signed with the Colts after a visit.
Judging this move for the Colts has a lot to do with what Costa's role will be. As a backup center who has the versatility to play guard as well, he is a valuable piece to have as a role player who can step in and start if needed as well. Counting on him to be the starting center, however, is likely not a wise choice, as Costa is just an average center and, at times, is worse than that. He missed most of the 2012 season due to injury and then saw very limited action in 2013, meaning that he hasn't seen serious legitimate action in the NFL for almost two years and in his only season as a full-time starter (2011), he struggled. Counting on him to just step in and start is a very dangerous assumption for the Colts and is one that isn't wise.
Costa's contract suggests that he was signed as a backup center, and if that's the case then I really don't mind this move much. The concern with him comes with the fact that the Colts haven't made any other moves at the position, which leaves Costa with a real chance to start and will likely mean a training camp battle with Khaled Holmes. If he ends up starting, then the signing will look much worse for Colts general manager Ryan Grigson. With a bunch of cap room available, his move to address the offensive line was... Phil Costa? As I said, as a backup center he's not a bad guy to have, but as a starter he leaves more to be desired.
The Colts really like Khaled Holmes and it appears clear that he has the inside track to be the starting center. It will be an uphill battle for Costa to earn the starting spot, and it's safe to say that if he does it probably won't be a good thing for the Colts. As a backup he's a good option, but due to the fact that he was the only center the Colts have added this offseason, it makes the signing that much more confusing and concerning. I'll hold off on completely judging this move until I see what Costa's role will be, but there is no doubt that there were better centers available on the market and that if Phil Costa is starting next season, it likely won't be a very good thing for the Colts.
Quick Summary: Phil Costa:
Weight: 302 pounds
Age: 26 years old
Years Pro: 4 seasons in the NFL, all with the Dallas Cowboys
Drafted: Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cowboys in 2010
Statistical Resume: 26 games played, 20 games started in 4 seasons with the Cowboys (started all 16 games in 2011)
Contract: 2-year, $2.75 million ($450,000 guaranteed); $1.25 million cap hit in 2014 (via spotrac)
Pros: Young and still room for improvement; physical player; has experience starting at the NFL level; can play both center and guard; quality backup option
Cons: Hasn't played much the past two seasons; undersized; can be beat with quick initial bursts
Twitter: None (that I could find)