The Ravens just acquired a journeyman center, A.Q. Shipley, from the Indianapolis Colts for a 4th-round conditional pick in the 2014 draft.
That's a pretty expensive price for a guy who's spent the first 4 years of his NFL career bouncing around practice squads for the Steelers, the Eagles and the Colts— but Shipley did have a very nice 5-game stint for the Colts last season as a starter.
In fact, a lot of Colts fans are upset about losing Shipley. They thought maybe they had their next "Jeff Saturday" finally in place.
Shipley (#62), 6-1, 309, age 26, Penn State, drafted in 2009 in the 7th round by the Steelers…picked up by the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad 2010-2011…acquired as free agent by the Colts in 2012.
The Ravens get the depth they want at center now that Matt Birk has retired. Gino Gradkowski (the 2nd year man from Delaware) still has a chance to win the starting job. But now Shipley's entrance with a recent add-on of starting experience to his resume will make things interesting…
Shipley (6-foot-1, 309 pounds) was originally a seventh-round draft pick out of Penn State by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2009, spent some time on the Philadelphia Eagles practice squad, and then came to the Colts in 2012. He appeared in 14 games for Indianapolis last season, starting five of them.
For Baltimore, it's a wise investment in an up-and-coming center with some NFL experience. The Ravens' starting center for four years, Matt Birk, retired after winning Super Bowl XLVII in February, leaving the team with only their fourth-round pick from 2011, Gino Gradkowski, and their sixth-round pick from April, Ryan Jensen, on their roster at the position.
The Colts could afford to make this trade because of an abundance of guys listed as a center on their roster: starter Samson Satele, veteran Mike McGlynn, fourth-round draft pick rookie Khaled Holmes, and rookie Rick Schmeig, who was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Purdue on May 9.
Satele had a hard time staying healthy in his first year with the Colts since being acquired from the Oakland Raiders to replace Jeff Saturday. The big guy out of Hawaii injured his knee early in the season and his ankle late in the season, but he's otherwise been durable over his seven years in the league.
The Colts also likely got more value from the Ravens for Shipley than they would have gotten for Satele. Baltimore's run game coordinator, Juan Castillo, was the offensive line coach in Philadelphia while Shipley was there with the Eagles, making him something of a known commodity to the Ravens.
Shipley's younger than Satele and, in theory anyway, has more tread left on the tires. Baltimore may not have been willing to pay so much for Satele.
So the Colts trade from a position of wealth, keep the experienced Satele to start and to mentor the new guys, and now have a fourth-round pick in 2014 again, where plenty of valuable talent can still be found.
Here's how Eric Ivie of yahoosports.com grades this trade:
"The Ravens trade for a position of need, get a young up-and-coming guy who they're somewhat familiar with, and get him at a good price."
"And Shipley, of course, now gets his crack at becoming a starter in the NFL."
"A good trade all the way around."
Paul Kuharsky of ESPN.com gives a slight advantage to the Colts in the trade:
"The Colts don’t need three centers, so dealing Shipley for a conditional pick — we don’t know what it can be — is completely reasonable. Being better than Satele last year wasn’t some giant achievement. I don’t mean that to demean Shipley — I respect the work he did."
"But if the Colts don’t view him as a long-term piece of the franchise, it’s smart to get something for a guy who may not have made it out of training camp."
I see Kuharsky's point in that the Colts just drafted a rookie center in the 4th round— Khaled Holmes of USC— and usually you would expect a center taken that high to be your primary backup and next starter in line after your big-money veteran (Samson Satele) is finished. Shipley, despite his yeoman-like effort last season, was "expendable".
Ironically, Shipley was better in his five starts last season than Samson Satele was.
Satele got a three-year, $10.8 million deal from the Colts last year with $4 million guaranteed and a $3.2 million signing bonus. He’s due a $2.7 million base salary this year.
Sometimes life isn't fair… but at least Shipley now gets a fair shot to compete in Baltimore.