When the Colts' signed Samson Satele this past offseason, most fans looked at him with cautious hope. Satele was lauded by people like Pro Football Focus, who called him inconsistent, but capable of huge things, especially in the run game. PFF even labeled him the Colts' "Secret Superstar" heading into the 2012 season. The only concern with Satele was that he could be inconsistent.
Well, Satele was inconsistent in the run game, having a few good games in run blockign, along with a few bad. But Satele wasn't inconsistent at all in pass protection, just bad.
But, do the Colts have another option, or are they stuck with Satele?
First, let's start with Satele. I'm not exaggerating when I say he was bad in pass protection.
Satele allowed 21 pressures in just 404 pass protection snaps, according to PFF, the worst ratio for centers in the league. Satele allowed six sacks, more than any other center despite being 28th in total snaps. He finished 35th out of 36 centers in pass protection grades from PFF, as well as 33rd in overall grade. His nagging injuries didn't help throughout the season, but even when he was healthy Satele was nowhere near an above-average center.
On the other hand, A.Q. Shipley filled in quite nicely when called on to start. Despite playing a very limited amount of snaps, Shipley finished 16th out of 36 centers in PFF's grades, and was one of just two Colts (Dwayne Allen) to finish with a positive grade in every category. While Satele finished with the worst pressure per snap ratio in the league for centers, Shipley was tied for 8th. Shipley was also named Week 17's honorable mention for "Best Offensive Sub," as he allowed just one pressure and held Shaun Cody without a run stop.
Shipley was incredibly consistent throughout the season, never having a game grade less than -0.6. He did however, have two very good games. The first was Shipley's first start, against Green Bay, the win that sparked the Colts' suprising run. The last was Shipley's final start, the inspirational cap on the season with the big win against Houston in Week 17.
So, what do the Colts' do going forward?
According to Spotrac, Satele is due $3.9 and $5.4 million over the next two years. Cutting him in 2012 would only save the Colts about $1.5 million in 2012. Is it worth it? I would say no, the Colts' struggled with depth this season, and keeping both around may prove useful.
However, keeping both around presents a problem. Shipley was easily the better performer in 2012, and likely should get a fair chance to win the starting job in 2013. But, NFL teams have a hard time playing undrafted, low-paid players over players with big contracts who are brought in to be starters. Satele's contract isn't huge, but it's substantial enough that it could pose a problem.
Come this offseason, Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano are going to have some big decisions to make regarding the interior offensive line, and the starting center could be the most interesting one.