To piggyback on Josh's review of the , many of you here, and several followers on Twitter, have been advocating for general manager Ryan Grigson to do two things to address the line this offseason: ' offensive line
- Cut center Samson Satele, who is due roughly $5 million next season and would only count $1 million against the cap if he were released
- Sign likely free agent center Alex Mack, who has played the last seven years with the Browns.
I understand the need many of you have in wanting the interior of the offensive line to evolve and get better. Despite improving in terms of sacks allowed over last season - due in large part to Pep Hamilton shifting the offense from a power running attack to a 3-wide, shotgun-based attack during the month of December - Andrew Luck was still dropped 32 times. He was also hit 68 times and hurried 147, per PFF. Compared to 2012, he was sacked 42 times, hit 61, and hurried 188.
Yes, there was improvement, but not much. Not enough.
However, as we often point out here at Stampede Blue, ego is as much a part of this business as the footballs, helmets, pads, and rivers of money that make up the NFL. Like anyone else who runs a team's front office, Ryan Grigson has an ego, and Samson Satele is seen as a "Grigson signing." He was actually one of the first free agents Grigson inked when free agency began in March 2012, committing Satele to a 3-year, $10.8 million contract with a $3.2 million signing bonus.
While with the Colts, Satele has consistently under-performed, and he has been outplayed by reserve centers Mike McGlynn in 2013 and A.Q. Shipley in 2012. Grigson could have parted ways with Satele last offseason and saved $1.7 million in cap space. Instead, he kept Satele and traded reserve center Shipley to Baltimore.
If Grigson was unwilling to dump Satele last year, what makes you think he'll do it now?
To release Satele would be an admission of error on the part of Grigson, and general managers do NOT like admitting they wasted millions of their team owner's money on bad players.
Grigson was smart, in the sense, in that he drafted Satele's likely replacement, former USC offensive linemen Khaled Holmes. However, the issue with Holmes in 2013 was, on a roster littered with significant injuries and very poor interior line play all season long, he could never find a way to get on the field. Rejects like Joe Reitz and castoffs like Xavier Nixon saw more snaps than Holmes, who was a fourth round pick and selected over more talented players like LA Tech wide receiver Quinton Patton and Stanford running back Stepfan Taylor.
Side Note: If ever you hear Grigson say he drafts the best player available regardless of round, it's OK to laugh. To Grigson's credit, he's admitted in the past he doesn't do that. However, after the poor results the team got from his 2013 draft haul, Grigson might want to re-think his philosophy.
For those of you who are clinging to the hope that Grigson will sign Alex Mack this offseason, I'm sorry but I don't see this happening either. Mack is 28 years old, and he will likely command a contract in free agency akin to what Ryan Kalil got in Carolina: 6 years, $50 million. With 5 years, $35 million invested in right tackle Gosder Cherilus, 4 years, $14 million invested in left guard Donald Thomas, and left tackle Anthony Castonzo entering the final year of his very cheap rookie deal (counts roughly $2.6 mill against the cap in 2014), Grigson simply cannot afford to invest any more money in his offensive line. The rest of his team has far too many holes.
Also, by signing Mack, it's not only an admission that Samson Satele was a bust, but Khaled Holmes as well. How can Holmes develop as a center in the NFL (which is why the Colts drafted him) if a $50 million dollar Alex Mack is taking all his snaps?
Grigson isn't taking that gamble. He can't afford to.
The reality we all must likely live with is Khaled Holmes or Samson Satele will function as the starting center in 2014. If both bust, and if the offensive line continues to get Andrew Luck hit again and again, Grigson will be accountable for that and have to answer for it at season's end.
Contract numbers provided by Spotrac.com