Center of Attention

The Colts’ interest in Mack as all but over, yet the interest is/was real in the center, who is trying to move on from his playing days as Cleveland’s center. Ultimately, he will cash in big. He has recently signed a tender from one of the Colts’ AFC South Rivals, the Jaguars. Cleveland has the ability to match the offer if it so chooses within five days. As I am writing this, news just came down that the Browns will match the offer likely ending the pursuit of Mack by any team this season.

Short of any game changing circumstances, the Colts will most likely head into the season with the two centers who are currently on the roster; unless there is another signing which come after the draft, such as an undrafted college free agent. That means a player whom many said was signed for depth, or a second year player who couldn’t work his way into the line up which had problems with the center position will be most likely snapping the ball to Andrew Luck.

I have been on the record stating that I am not a fan of this scenario. However, going into the season it doesn’t really matter what you or I think, it only matters what the General Manager, Ryan Grigson thinks. Grigson has made some statements concerning the situation and had this to say, “We feel pretty good where we’re at. You always like to be able to plug in a Pro Bowler there or someone that’s a five-year starter, have that luxury, but I’ll say this to make this point: You guys had great success here with (Jeff) Saturday who was (college free agent) that I think was stocking shelves when they brought him in.”
So, reading between the lines, it sounds like he is comfortable plugging in someone like the recently signed Phil Costa (a college free agent, but was the starting center in Dallas in 2011 and was injured in 2012 and was on the roster but barely used last year) to be the Colts starting center for at least this year. This is the way that I read his statement. One factor is Costa was signed to 1 year, 1.2 million dollar contract, more than Holmes is making. It seems probable if not likely he has the edge at the starting center position for the 2014 season due to his experience.

However, Grigson also had this to say about second year center Khaled Holmes, “We drafted Khaled Holmes to be that center of the future. He never got a chance in camp really because of the ankle, so he’s still a little bit of an unknown at the professional level. But it’s going to be a good competition.” Also Pagano has been speaking highly of Holmes so maybe he is the likely starter coming this season. As a side note, I broke my ankle recently and am in the process of rehabilitating my ankle at this time. I know a little of what he was going through and understand why he was behind all last season. It’s a long and very slow healing process. I’m not a professional athlete but can only imagine how much more he had to go through to get back on the field. It has been almost seven weeks out from the accident that I had, and I’m still walking in a boot and using crutches.

Many of the writers covering the Colts have raised red flags with Holmes, since he couldn’t really work his way into the troubled center position last year. Pagano was often asked but said more or less that they just had not had the right circumstances for him to play (paraphrasing). Others will be quick to point out that as Grigson noted in his comments, Holmes injured himself in training camp and never really got up to speed. My interpretation is that I think there will be competition in training camp, possibly with both splitting time, but I eventually one of them would start to assume control of the position. I think it’s most likely Costa because of past experience, but Holmes may very well end up the starter if he is healed completely, which all indications appears to be the case. Holmes is a complete mystery, and that’s what raises questions about him. I’m not endorsing one over the other, in fact I have been on the sign Johnathon Goodwin (49ers free agent) for a couple of years and then hopefully turn over to Holmes who would hopefully be seasoned enough to assume control.

That option seems unlikely as well because the team seems to be done with signing any more big names this season. I have drawn my conclusion just from the way Grigson keeps talking up college free agent and evoking the Jeff Saturday name basically saying you don’t need to be drafted to be a starting NFL center, as is the case with Costa. In fact, Grigson had this to say about the center position, “About center in general, I personally have been fortunate enough to be to three Super Bowls with two teams, and on all three of those teams the centers were (college free agents). That’s a position where you can find a quality guy and you don’t need always to have that high-profile player at that spot.”

Those are Grigson’s words, not yours or mine, and I don’t have to like that line of reasoning, and Grigson probably doesn’t care what we as fans think. He’s paid to objectively evaluate talent and make the best possible roster that he can. Maybe one of these guys does turn into a Pro Bowl Center, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. There are lots of factors that go into signing and drafting players, and part of that is objectively watching tape and looking to see if the player can truly play at the highest level. I don’t think he would bring in a guy if he felt he couldn’t play.

Would I have been more comfortable with Alex Mack snapping the ball to Luck? Of course, but he or De La Puente (recently signed by Bears), Goodwin or whomever we would like most likely won’t be under center for the Colts. This is one of those scenarios that will play out and will either vindicate or be the cause of more discussions about whether he (Grigson) made the right choice. I’m hoping that he is right and we won’t have to discuss the center position any longer. Most of those who follow the Colts know how important it is for them to get the center position corrected. It’s a position that doesn’t stand out, unless there is a reason such as poor play. We all experienced that last season, let’s hope that we aren’t going through this scenario again at the end of next season.

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