The Indianapolis Colts have drawn the ire of fans amid their unwillingness to spend top dollar in free agency, and we’d be hard-pressed to fault them for feeling this way.
Perhaps general manager Chris Ballard is waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike, but the elite talent pool is drying up severely with each passing week. And each day he doesn’t sign a homegrown star to an extension, the more heat he will take for his conservative approach.
If there’s one thing the Colts and Ballard deserve credit for, however, it’s how they’ve emphasized adding quality offensive line depth after the unit was ravaged by injuries last season.
On Thursday morning, they added another reinforcement in the form of guard Chris Reed, who started 14 games for the Carolina Panthers in 2020. The former undrafted talent will get a one-year deal, according to NFL Network insider Tom Pelissero.
When it comes to adding experienced OL depth, the Colts are dominating the competition in free agency.
It might not seem like much on the surface, but the Colts hoarding experienced offensive line depth is incredibly important considering how many injuries they dealt with last season.
Both right tackle Braden Smith and left tackle Anthony Castonzo, who has since retired due to an overwhelming number of injuries, were forced out of the lineup in 2020 and Indianapolis didn’t have viable talent on the bench to keep the offense humming in their absence.
Thus far in free agency, the Colts have re-signed center Joey Hunt and inked deals with Reed as well as veteran tackles Sam Tevi and Julie’n Davenport. For context, their top backup options last season were Chaz Green and Le’Raven Clark. They logged just 23.7% and 15.7% snap shares over their respective five-year careers.
Knowing how diminutive the odds are for an entire offensive line to remain healthy for a full season, you have to give Ballard some props for making depth a priority in free agency.
If this move was made last offseason, Colts fans probably would’ve been shaking their heads, because Reed had started just nine games over his first four years in the league.
Last season, however, was an entirely different story, as he started 14 games for Carolina and played 86% of the offensive snaps. For somebody who had been deprived of a regular role for most of his career, Reed made a seamless transition as a full-time starter, conceding just one sack and three penalties, leading to a respectable 63.0 blocking grade from Pro Football Focus.
We know this isn’t the big splash Colts fans have been clamoring for since the start of free agency, but they have to feel good knowing that their offensive line should continue operating smoothly in the event that one of their five starters went down with an injury.