Colts have free-agent options for left tackle

Indy Blitz

Offensive tackle Alejandro Villanueva #78 of the Pittsburgh Steelers listens to the national anthem before a game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium on October 1, 2017 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS – At a time when post-NFL Draft grades are prevalent and, let’s be honest, ridiculous, it still might be appropriate to affix a grade to the Indianapolis Colts’ offseason work.

And that would be: Incomplete.

Or that’s the impression that could be taken away from the two movers and shakers with the franchise.

And that would be owner Jim Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard.

Since walking off the field at Bills Stadium in Orchard Park, N.Y. with a 27-24 first-round playoff loss, the Colts have had to reload at quarterback (from a retiring Philip Rivers to a beleaguered Carson Wentz) and at defensive end (from Denico Autry and Justin Houston to Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo).

They’ve limited defections by re-signing wideouts T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal, cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie and running back Marlon Mack.

They’ve addressed their offensive line by giving one-year contracts to tackles Sam Tevi and Julién Davenport and guard Chris Reed.

But have they really settled on a suitable successor for retired left tackle Anthony Castonzo?

That didn’t happen in the draft.

“Anytime you have a player like Anthony Castonzo retire, it’s a need and we signed some guys who we think are pretty good football players,’’ Ballard said. “But saying that, it just didn’t match up at that point in the draft.’’

He also indicated there weren’t as many prototypical left tackles in the draft as some perceived.

“If you’re going to draft a guy that high and you’re going to draft him to play left tackle, you’d like to know that he’s going to be able to do it for his whole career,’’ Ballard said.

There were 25 offensive tackles selected over the weekend, including four in round 1 and six more in round 2. The Colts opted for No. 25: Penn State’s Will Fries. He’s a depth prospect.

They preferred Paye and Odeyingbo early and apparently options later disappeared.

Unable to grab a suitable left tackle prospect in the draft, the Colts have two remaining options: open training camp with Tevi, or look for someone better on the open market.

It certainly sounded as if Door No. 2 is a realistic possibility.

First, Irsay said “We feel that Tevi can do a very solid job there.’’

But then added, “There’s other options that could come about that we could look at. We’re just going to see where we go from there and what other opportunities present themselves.’’

And this from Ballard: “We’ve signed some offensive linemen with Tevi who have played a lot of games in this league and we’ll continue to scour the market.

“We knew it was going to be hard (with) all the things that we needed to fill. I mean those were big shoes that needed to be filled (with Castonzo retirement), and we’re happy with the work we’ve done up to this point. But we still have a long way to go before the season.’’

If the Colts look outside the building, here are available options:

CHARLES LENO, JR.

  • Age: 29
  • Experience: Has started 93 consecutive games at left tackle for the Chicago Bears.
  • Comment: Several media reports have the Bears releasing Leno Monday in what might be a salary-cap move. He’s due a $8.9 million base salary in 2021 and would count $11.3 million against the cap. The Bears are only $427,000 under the cap, and that’s not nearly enough to deal with their rookie class and other personnel moves. On top of that, they selected Oklahoma State’s Teven Jenkins with the 39th overall pick.
  • Also of note: Leno’s position coach at Boise State was Chris Strausser, the Colts’ offensive line coach.

ALEJANDRO VILLANUEVA

  • Age: 32
  • Experience: Started 96 of 90 games with Pittsburgh last six seasons, including all 16 games last five. A Two-time Pro Bowl selection.
  • Comment: Speculation has Villanueva headed to Baltimore to replace Orlando Brown.

ERIC FISHER

  • Age: 30
  • Experience: The 1st overall pick in the 2013 draft has started 113 of 117 games and was the Chiefs’ left-side starter since ’14.
  • Comment: Ballard is very familiar with Fisher from his time with the Chiefs. The overriding issue with him is the torn Achilles suffered in the AFC Championship game in late January. There’s a chance he won’t be ready for the start of the season.

MITCHELL SCHWARTZ

  • Age: 31
  • Experience: Started 134 games in nine seasons, all at right tackle for Cleveland and Kansas City.
  • Comment: Schwartz started those 134 games from day 1 as a 2012 second-round pick of the Browns, but the streak ended when he missed the final 10 games because of back surgery. He believes he’ll be ready for the start of the season. But could he make the switch to left tackle?

RUSSELL OKUNG

  • Age: 32
  • Experience: Has started 131 games at left tackle for four teams in 11 seasons. The 6th overall pick in the 2010 draft is a two-time Pro Bowl selection, but the last honor came in ’17.
  • Comment: Injuries have been an issue. Okung has started just 13 games the last two seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers and Carolina Panthers. A calf injury limited him to seven starts last season with the Panthers.

JASON PETERS

  • Age: 39
  • Experience: A 203-game starter in 17 seasons with Buffalo and Philadelphia. Peters was selected to nine Pro Bowls and named All-Pro twice while starting 148 games in 12 seasons with the Eagles.
  • Comment: Peters would represent the ultimate short-term fix. He turns 40 in January. Coach Frank Reich at least knows what Peters used to be from their time together in Philadelphia (2016-17). A broken toe limited him to eight starts last season.

DENNIS KELLY

  • Age: 31
  • Experience: Has started 47 of 104 career games, but at right tackle. Started all 16 games last season for the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans.
  • Comment: Again, could Kelly make an effective switch to left tackle?

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