In the coming days, don’t be surprised if post-draft examinations come down hard on general manager Chris Ballard, who shockingly drafted defensive linemen with his first two picks instead of addressing the left tackle vacancy.
It goes without saying that draft grades are arbitrary, as no one really knows whether a prospect will pan out.
However, for someone who’s utterly dominated the draft during his GM tenure, the criticism Ballard has received has been fully justified.
Luckily for him and the Colts, however, a potential left tackle solution has just become available for the taking on the open market.
On Monday, the Bears released veteran Charles Leno, who’s started every game over the last five seasons.
The Colts must sign recently-released Bears LT Charles Leno.
The Bears drafted in-demand offensive lineman Teven Jenkins with their first pick of the second round (No. 39 overall), and Leno’s abrupt release suggests they’re prepared to start the Oklahoma State product at left tackle as a rookie.
That’s admittedly a risky move by Chicago, but the only thing that should concern Indy is that a marquee LT just hit the open market. Entering the final year of his four-year contract, Leno could be the perfect one-year rental for the Colts.
As things stand, the Colts are projected to start the inconsistent Sam Tevi at left tackle next season. With all due respect to the former sixth-rounder, Indy cannot afford to start somebody who’s averaged a lousy 55.4 blocking grade over his first four seasons.
It’d be a different story if the Colts had an injured veteran (like Eric Fisher) waiting in the wings to take over once he gets healthy, but that isn’t the case. They’re planning to roll with Tevi despite having ample cap space and the requisite draft capital to find viable solutions.
That’s what makes Leno a must-have for Indianapolis. Not only is he as durable as any lineman in the league (he’s started 93 consecutive games) but he’s also a Rolls Royce of a blocker in the trenches. For context, Leno made the Pro Bowl as recently as 2018 and earned an elite 74.6 blocking grade last season.
The Colts have taken some heat for their puzzling approach to the draft, and rightfully so, but they can make amends for all of their supposed mistakes by signing Leno, who’s slated to make just $8.9 million in 2021, following his surprise release.