My disdain for Samson Satele is well known. So is the rest of the Colts Authority staff's and the vast majority of the Colts' fanbase.
Satele has been one of the Colts' biggest offensive weaknesses over the last two years, and was one of Ryan Grigson's worst free agent signings. Satele was Pro Football Focus' 33rd rated center in 2012, and improved to just 31st in 2013 (Improvement!). In 2012, he was PFF's second-worst pass-protecting center. In 2013, he was their worst run blocker.
He just can't put it together, apparently. That doesn't even consider his ability, or lack thereof, to identify blitzes and get the correct protections set up. While Mike McGlynn is a far less talented blocker, the offensive line as a whole seemed to be in better position when he filled in for Satele at times last season.
With arguably the most cut-friendly contract in 2013, Satele is a prime candidate to be released, and many, many Colts fans have expressed their desire to see him gone. Heck, even reporters are now specifically asking Ryan Grigson about Satele's future. That's right. Not the baloney non-committal questions, but blatantly asking about whether Satele will be cut.
As much sense as it makes to cut Satele and upgrade at center, it's easy to lose sight of the whole picture. I know I'm guilty of that. But looking at the whole situation, it's (depressingly) easy to see why Satele very likely will stick on the Colts' roster for most of the offseason, if not into the 2014 season.
Let's start by looking at a whole bunch of different factors.
- Satele 2014 cap hit: $5.1 million
- Cost to cut: $1.1 million ($4 million savings)
- Centers on the 2014 Roster: Satele, Khaled Holmes, Thomas Austin
- 2014 free agent centers (at least 400 snaps in 2014): Alex Mack, Evan Dietrich-Smith, Roberto Garza, Jonathan Goodwin, Brian de la Puente, Joe Hawley, Fernando Velasco, Jim Cordle, Robert Turner, Ryan Wendell
- Draft-eligible centers (projected 6th round or higher by CBS Sports): Travis Swanson, Weston Richburg, Marcus Martin, Bryan Stork, Tyler Larsen, Corey Linsley
Considering how he's played over the last two years and the first two bullets on the above list, Satele should be cut. This is something agreed upon by all Colts fans. Unfortunately, the rest of the big picture may make that harder than it should be.
The Colts can't cut Satele without some kind of contingency plan. Who is going to be the Colts' starting center next season? The Colts can't go in to the season with an unproven Holmes and practice squad Austin.
So, sign a center in free agency, right? Well, it's not that simple.
Alex Mack, the top free agent center and target of most Colts fans desires, likely isn't leaving Cleveland. Of the other free agents, just two were actually full-time centers that aren't one hundred years old: Evan Dietrich-Smith and Brian de la Puente. So you have two guys that could realistically give you an upgrade over Satele, but there's no guarantee that the Colts will sign them. It's easy to say: "Sign Player A, B and C" but there are 31 other teams, and some of them are also trying to sign those same players.
I think that's the trap we fall into, just assuming that the Colts can sign whomever we desire. The process of wooing free agents is a different discussion, but you can't assume that just because a team wants a player, they'll sign them. I've had multiple people tell me this week "Well, remember last year when the Colts were supposedly interested in a bunch of players and never signed them? So there's no point believing they are interested in anybody!"
It IS POSSIBLE to be interested in a player and not end up signing them in, for any number of reasons. Even if the Colts are interested in signing de la Puente or Dietrich-Smith, they could end up with neither player. And that's why Satele likely won't be cut anytime soon, possibly not at all. As much as the Colts can't afford to have Satele starting for another year, especially at a $5.1 million cap hit, they also can't afford to go into the season with just an unproven Holmes as their option at center.
Like it, hate it or loathe it with a passion that burns like a thousand suns, Satele gives them a starting option in case Holmes can't do it and they can't get a decent upgrade this offseason.
Don't get me wrong, if Satele is on the Colts roster for the scheduled cap hit in 2014, it will have been a massive failure in the 2014 offseason. Upgrading the center spot is something that needs to happen.
But he's not going to be cut tomorrow. There's no reason to, really. And in the end, he may not be cut at all. Even if you hate that fact, it's time to start preparing for the possibility.