Who’s Out There? Centers

The free-agent crop of centers presents some quality options.

Posted by Garrett Downing on Saturday, February 18th, 2012 at 1:58 pm | Categories: Garrett Downing

Ravens General Manager Ozzie Newsome made it clear at the end-of-season press conference that the team plans to add at least one new center to the roster next season.

“Before we line up and play in 2012, there will be another center on this football team in some capacity – free agency, draft or whatever,” Newsome said.

The status of last year’s starter Matt Birk is up in the air as he is contemplating whether he wants to retire or return for his 15th NFL season. He is also an unrestricted free agent, so if he decides to come back he and the Ravens will have to work out a new contract.

Birk’s backup last year was 10-year veteran Andre Gurode, who was a five-time Pro Bowler with the Dallas Cowboys. Gurode was a versatile lineman who played center and guard in backup roles. He is also an unrestricted free agent but has expressed interest in returning to Baltimore.

Regardless of what happens with Birk and Gurode, Newsome’s desire to bring in a new center could come through free agency, where there are some quality options available.

Chris Myers, Houston Texans
Unrestricted (8th Season); 30 years old; 6-foot-4, 289 pounds
2011 Season: 16 starts
Myers was an anchor on the Texans offensive line and ended up making the Pro Bowl after clearing holes for Arian Foster’s 1,200-yard rushing season. The Texans would like to bring Myers back, but they have other big contracts to renew first like outside linebacker Mario Williams. Myers starred in the Texans zone-blocking scheme, which the Ravens adopted before last season. He would likely make a seamless transition to the Ravens offense.
(Upside – Familiar with zone-blocking scheme; Downside – Price)

Scott Wells, Green Bay Packers
Unrestricted (9th Season); 31; 6-2, 300
2011 Season: 16 starts
Wells has been a staple for the Packers offense for the last nine seasons. He’s been the team’s starting center since 2005 and hasn’t missed a game since 2009. He’s a proven veteran and a key piece for one off the best offenses in the league. He also made his first Pro Bowl last year, which could drive up his price on the free-agent market.
(Upside – Experience; Downside – Price)

Dan Koppen, New England Patriots
Unrestricted (10th Season); 32; 6-2, 296
2011 Season: 1 start
Koppen had his 2011 season cut short after just one game because a fractured ankle landed him on injured reserve. The Patriots longtime center has been the team’s starter since he came into the league in 2003 and has proven to be a quality offensive lineman. The question for the Patriots and other teams on the market is how he will come back from the injury.
(Upside – Experience, Lower price; Downside – Injury concerns)

Nick Hardwick, San Diego Chargers
Unrestricted (9th Season); 30; 6-4, 305
2011 Season: 16 starts
Hardwick was a consistent piece on a Chargers offensive line that was decimated by injuries last season, and he has started every game for the past two seasons. Hardwick has spent his entire career in San Diego and been the team’s starting center since 2004. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2006. Hardwick initially expressed interest in retiring after the season, but has recently said he plans to return for this season and is hoping to re-sign with the Chargers.
(Upside – Proven Player;  Downside – Retirement concerns)

Jeff Saturday, Indianapolis Colts
Unrestricted (14th Season); 36; 6-2, 295
2011 Season:
16 starts
The Colts longtime center is coming off another strong season and has said he’s planning to return for another year. He has been with the Colts since 1999 and has been one of the top centers in the NFL during that time. At 36 years old, Saturday’s age is certainly a concern, but he could potentially provide a stop-gap for the Ravens if Birk decides to retire and the Ravens bring in a rookie to learn from Saturday. The veteran center has also made comments that he is contemplating retirement. 
(Upside – Lower price, Experience; Downside – Age, Retirement concerns).

Samson Satele, Oakland Raiders
Unrestricted (6th Season); 27; 6-3, 300
2011 Season: 15 starts
The five-year veteran is one of the younger centers set to hit the free-agent market after spending the last three seasons as the Raiders starter. He played his first two seasons in Miami and was then traded to Oakland. He has been a solid option in Oakland, as the Raiders were in the top 10 in rushing yards per game (131.9) last season.
(Upside – Young; Downside – Less proven than other free agents)

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