Nothing in Indianapolis sports has been discussed as much recently as the center position. Whether it be the inexplicable disappearance of Roy Hibbert for the Pacers or the questions about the center position for the Colts, the position has been heavily talked about no matter what sport.
The center position for the Colts got much more interesting today, as newly signed free agent center Phil Costa decided to retire and was placed on the reserve/retired list. In a statement today, general manager Ryan Grigson said,
"Phil feels it's in his best interest to retire from the game. We certainly understand and wish him nothing but the best."
So, while we have talked a ton about the position here at Stampede Blue, I guess it's time to talk about it again.
Costa was a Colt for just over a month before announcing his retirement. He received $450,000 guaranteed and didn't play a single snap for the team. It's rare to see a player walk away at only 26 years old, and certainly Costa deserves some credit for doing so on his own timetable. I wish him well in whatever the next step in his life is.
Where does this leave the Colts, however? Luckily for them, Costa was not brought in to be the starting center but rather to be the backup to Khaled Holmes. While he certainly was going to be given the chance to compete in training camp, everyone knew that Holmes had the inside track to the job and was likely going to be the one starting. I wrote about this in my free agent profile on him, saying that how we viewed the signing would largely be based on his role:
"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 withKhaled 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."
Now, Costa is retired and the Colts are left with just one player listed as a true center on their roster (Thomas Austin), although Khaled Holmes (who is listed as a center/guard) is for all intents and purposes a center - though when he played last year he did play at guard (in very limited snaps).
Here's a very important thing to keep in mind when trying to figure out what the Colts are going to do at the center position: the Colts view Khaled Holmes as the starter. When they signed Phil Costa, he was signed to a backup-type deal to be a backup. At the owner's meetings in late March, Grigson said,
"We looked at every center, we looked at all the guards. We didn't like anybody. It's based off our facts, which is the tape."
So, what Grigson said is that of all the free agent centers, Phil Costa was the one they liked after looking at the film. He has also stated in the past how he doesn't like to play rookie offensive linemen - that doesn't mean he won't, just that he ideally doesn't want to. So with all of that said, I don't expect the Colts to go out and grab a guy who will be the starter. In that regard, not much has changed - Khaled Holmes still looks like the starting center, although at the moment there's not really anybody to legitimately challenge him either - although Thomas Austin did look pretty good last year in camp and preseason. Phil Costa would have provided solid depth, although there's a real chance that the Colts can add a better backup center than Costa anyway.
According to CBSSports.com, the top free agent centers available are as follows:
2. Kyle Cook
Yes, that Samson Satele. There are other free agent centers out there and you might disagree with him being the third best available center, but what it does show is that the center position just doesn't have many good available options. Jonathan Goodwin is a very solid player who would become the best center on the roster if the Colts signed him and would easily make the most sense, but it's anything but certain. It's not even certain that they'll add a center in free agency at all. In the draft, they might, and I looked extensively at the three main ones last week: Weston Richburg, Marcus Martin, and Travis Swanson. I'd recommend that you read the article for yourself, but while I still think the Colts will go a different direction with their first pick (in the second round) than center, it does become much more possible that they will use it on a center and it becomes much more likely that they'll add a center at some point in the draft.
I don't think Phil Costa will have a huge impact on what the Colts are planning to do because, well, he was the backup anyway. They'll need to add depth now, yeah, and center becomes even more of a question mark than it was before because Ryan Grigson's only free agent signing at the position has now retired. It's a surprising move and an interesting story, but if the Colts offensive line is terrible again in 2014, it most definitely won't be because of Phil Costa retiring.