The Indianapolis Colts were left in a bind at left tackle after Anthony Castonzo announced his retirement at the end of last season.
It was immediately speculated that the Colts would take to free agency to find his replacement, but the first and second waves came and went without so much as a bidding war for an in-demand player being traced back to Indy.
Then, the 2021 Draft came around and Indianapolis seemed like a surefire bet to draft a tackle with one of their first two picks.
When all was said and done, however, they didn’t select an offensive lineman until their final pick of the seventh round.
Barring something truly unprecedented, that pick — Penn State product Will Fries — won’t play much of a role as a rookie, let alone become the starting left tackle. In other words, the Colts are currently planning to roll with offseason acquisition Sam Tevi as the starter.
Taking that into account, and that the prospect of moving either one of Quenton Nelson or Braden Smith out of their respective positions hasn’t gained any momentum since the start of the offseason, let’s delve into a power ranking of Indy’s top remaining free agent LT options.
NOTE: This ranking does not include Alejandro Villanueva, who reportedly left the Steelers for the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday morning. Shame.
Ranking the Colts’ remaining free agent options at left tackle.
Colts Target: Charles Leno
The Bears surprisingly released Charles Leno after they traded up to select Teven Jenkins in the second round last weekend, indicating they’re planing on moving the latter, who played right tackle for Oklahoma State, to the left side of the line as a rookie.
While Leno isn’t a household name, he’s the definition of consistent and durable, which is really all the Colts can ask for at this stage of the offseason. Not only is Leno familiar with Indy’s offensive line coach Chris Strausser, but he’s appeared in 93 consecutive games and earned a stellar 74.6 blocking grade from Pro Football Focus last season.
And, to top it all off, Leno’s entering the final year of his contract and will make just $8.9 million next season and account for a reasonable $11.29 million cap hit.
Colts Target: Eric Fisher
It’s worth noting that Eric Fisher would rank No. 1 on this list if not for his Achilles injury, but it’s likely that he’ll begin the season on the physically unable to perform list (PUP) and miss the first several weeks of action while he works himself back to full strength.
We identified Fisher as a potential target for Indy immediately following his release from the Chiefs, but nothing we’ve heard suggests they’ve even contacted him yet.
Despite the devastating injury, which he suffered in the AFC Championship Game, Fisher is normally available for nearly 100% of the offensive snaps. Based on sheer talent and experience alone, the two-time Pro Bowler is easily one of the most intriguing LT solutions for the Colts.
Colts Target: Russell Okung
If this article was written two or three years ago, Okung would undoubtedly top the list. However, durability has been a real concern for the former No. 6 overall pick in the last two seasons, during which he’s been limited to just 13 games.
During the 2019 offseason, Okung was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism due to blood clots in his lungs and wasn’t activated until the middle of the year. Fast forward to last campaign and he, after being traded to Carolina, was sidelined for several weeks with a calf injury.
With all that being said, Okung, as long as he can stay healthy (which is a huge if) would offer incredibly stability at the left tackle for the Colts. The best part? The 33-year-old’s recent injury history suggests he could be signed on the cheap.
Colts Target: Mitchell Schwartz
Full disclosure: Indianapolis would be better off starting Tevi than pursuing the options ranked behind Mitchell Schwartz, so this marks the end of the list. A former second-round pick who played his last five seasons in Kansas City, Schwartz would be a solid signing for the Colts.
Though he’s a right tackle by trade, the 31-year-old has the requisite versatility to make the switch to the opposite side of the line. Schwartz is a decorated blocker, as he made a first- or second-team All-Pro in four straight seasons before a back injury, which required surgery, sidelined him for most of 2020.
The nine-year pro was released earlier this offseason due to the Chiefs’ cap constraints, and there where whispers that he was pondering retirement. However, as long as the Colts clear him medically and he assures them that an abrupt retirement isn’t in the cards, we’d fully endorse the idea of him starting at left tackle for Indy come Week 1 if all else fails.