The Herald Bulletin

April 21, 2014

George Bremer: Holmes becomes center of attention

The Herald Bulletin

---- — Khaled Holmes already was shaping up as one of the more interesting players to watch on the Indianapolis Colts’ roster this summer. With Phil Costa’s decision to retire on Monday, Holmes becomes one of the most vital.

General manager Ryan Grigson said last month Holmes — a fourth-round pick in 2013 — was drafted “to be that center of the future.” After appearing in just four regular-season games as a rookie, it appears the USC product’s time has come.

Holmes missed nearly all of his initial training camp because of an ankle injury, and Grigson allowed during a post-free agency conference call last month the second-year lineman is “still a little bit of an unknown at the professional level.”

But it’s a risk the team appears to be willing to take.

The NFL draft begins two weeks from Thursday, and Indianapolis has just two picks — a second-rounder (No. 59 overall) and a third-rounder (No. 90) — in the top 100 selections. With starting competitions also likely at safety and right guard, a thin depth chart at cornerback and a need to add another pass-rushing threat, there is no guarantee either pick will be spent on a center.

And free agency offers few alternatives. Among the remaining possibilities are 35-year-old Johnathan Goodwin, who has made 80 consecutive starts for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers over the past five seasons, and 30-year-old Kyle Cook, who started all 16 games for the Cincinnati Bengals in four of the past five seasons.

Both could provide a stop-gap solution for 2014, but it remains to be seen if either would be willing to compete for a job against a second-year player with no starting experience.

Colorado State’s Weston Richburg is widely considered to be the best center available in the draft, but the Colts might need to move up to get him. Arkansas’ Travis Swanson is another option who might be available when Indianapolis is on the clock, and Florida’s Jonotthan Harrison and North Carolina’s Russell Bodine are among the players expected to go in the later rounds.

Costa — who made 20 starts over four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys — was supposed to provide depth and experience. But Grigson is unlikely to panic.

He worked in the front office for two Super Bowl teams in St. Louis and one in Philadelphia, and all three started undrafted players at center.

“That’s a position where you can find a quality guy, and you don’t always need to have a high-profile player at that spot,” Grigson said last month.

Colts fans can only hope he’s right.

Sports writer George Bremer’s column appears each Tuesday in The Herald Bulletin.