In an unexpected bit of news Thursday morning, the Colts' have traded center A.Q. Shipley to the Baltimore Ravens for a conditional draft pick in 2014. [UPDATE: The pick is reportedly a 7th round pick contingent upon Shipley making Baltimore's roster]
After drafting Khaled Holmes in the 4th round of the 2013 draft, the Colts had three centers on the roster, as well as ten interior linemen competing for three spots. Meanwhile, the retirement of Matt Birk in Baltimore left the team thin at center.
Shipley was a seventh round pick by the Steelers in 2009, and had bounce around practice squads before the Colts picked him up last January. He started five games in 2012 and played over 450 snaps.
The depth at interior offensive line meant the Colts could afford to let Shipley go. Shipley also doesn't quite fit the style of lineman the Colts seem to want in their new offense. The Colts drafted Khaled Holmes and Hugh Thornton in the draft, two players who have quick feet and can pull out and move to the second level easily. Shipley is about 15 pounds heavier than Holmes and Satele, and isn't quite as mobile, although he does anchor in pass protection better.
All that being said, I'm not a fan of the move. Shipley was an unexpected bright spot in 2012, filling in quite well for Samson Satele at center and being able to fill in at guard in a pinch. Shipley, along with Joe Lefeged, was one player who was quite simply better than the player he was replacing last season.
By the end of the season, Shipley had received great reviews from ProFootballFocus, receiving positive overall grades in every category. Shipley, Andrew Luck, and Reggie Wayne were the only Colts' to accomplish that particular feat. Unlike Satele, Shipley was consistent. He wasn't always great, but he never really had a bad game. He also was incredibly disciplined, finishing the season as the league's only starting center to not be called for a penalty. PFF was actually in the midst of writing a piece on Shipley being a "Secret Superstar" for the Colts when the news was announced.
Yes, the Colts had excess at center, but I much rather would have seen the Colts either let the players have the competition in camp or simply cut Satele. Shipley was better than Satele in 2012, is a cheaper option, and was a fan favorite. If it wasn't for a minor knee issue at the end of last season, he should have taken Satele's job from him outright.
When looking at the situation, you can see where Grigson may be coming from, although the following scenario likely isn't one Colts' fans want to think about.
After drafting Khaled Holmes in the fourth round, the Colts were looking to have three centers in camp. One of the three was likely to be cut. With Shipley playing so well last season, it was a very real possibility that he would outperform both Satele and Holmes in training camp. If that occurred, Grigson would have been put in a very tight spot.
If he releases Satele, it's an admission that last summer's big contract and ensuing praise throughout the offseason was a mistake, and one that costed the Colts money.
If he releases Holmes, even in an attempt to get him onto the practice squad, it's an admission that a HUGE mistake was made in the drafting process. Holmes isn't worth a fourth round pick if he can't even make the roster.
By shipping Shipley off to Baltimore, Grigson avoids having to potentially make those admissions.
Although nobody wants to believe this about their GM, especially one who has done as good of a job as Grigson has, pride can get in the way. We saw it with Bill Polian at times when drafted players were kept on longer than necessary. While Polian was still a very good, even great general manager (and Grigson can be as well), pride can be incredibly detrimental to a franchise. Derek Schultze said it best:
@coltsauth_kyle Grigson, or any other successful GM, can't worry about embarrassment. Sometimes, winning requires swallow your pride.
— Derek Schultz (@Schultz1260) May 9, 2013
I don't want to believe this about Grigson. I really like what he did in Indianapolis in 2012, and hope that kind of success can continue, creating a lont-term dynasty with Andrew Luck similar to what Polian and Peyton Manning did. But it also shouldn't be ignored.
This move isn't a back-breaker by any means, but I'm not a fan of it, especially if Holmes proves to be inadequate at center. Satele will cost $3.8 and $5.4 million in the next two years, and the Colts need a contingency plan.