INDIANAPOLIS – Outside of the steadiness that has defined Braden Smith’s NFL career, the Colts face a variety of questions at every other offensive line spot.
Part of that is inevitable when you have 4 notable OL free agents in 2022.
The first two questions begin at what the Colts will do with their starting unit, with open spots at left tackle and right guard.
Eric Fisher, 31, battled back from a torn Achilles and looked limited in pass protection, in his debut season with the Colts at LT.
From the sound of it, Chris Ballard is expecting some improvement from Fisher, so it could be another year of a band-aid at left tackle.
“He was coming off the Achilles (and) I thought he had a 7-game stretch where he played really good,” the GM said. “And then he had a pec and a knee (injury) at the end of the year. He tried to fight through it, and it affected him some.”
On Wednesday though, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Colts and Fisher are likely to go in opposite directions this offseason.
Fisher is a free agent, but even a return of him wouldn’t address the long-term issues at left tackle. Terron Armstead is the clear cream of the weak left tackle crop in free agency. But Armstead’s injury history is long.
Will 2022 be the draft that the Colts finally make some investment into the most sought after position on the offensive line? Is that the (risky) path for a Day 1 starter?
Along with left tackle, right guard is the other open starting job entering 2022.
Mark Glowinski, who has been the Colts right guard since the 2018 season, is a free agent. So is Chris Reed, who has starting experience at both guard spots, and filled in nicely this past year.
Turning to Danny Pinter, a 2020 5th round pick, is something that could be in the Colts plan.
Inserting Pinter into the starting lineup would be the wisest move financially and would also give the staff a chance to evaluate a player they believe can start in this league.
“Danny Pinter, we like a lot,” Chris Ballard says. “‘I think Danny Pinter has a really bright future in this league.”
Another question for the O-line will be what happens with free agent Matt Pryor. Think of Pryor as the new Joe Reitz/Joe Haeg for the Colts.
Pryor might not have a full-time starting job in Indy, but he’s an important depth piece at multiple spots. The question for Pryor in free agency might be if another NFL team offers him a realistic shot at starting, which isn’t something that looks to be available in Indy. Pryor only has 1 career start at left tackle so projecting him there is too lofty.
Taking a look down the road, the Colts will be giving Quenton Nelson a contract extension, something that doesn’t need to happen this offseason (Nelson is under team control through the 2022 season).
“We are going to want Quenton to be here,” Ballard says. “Whether it gets done now, this year or next year, whenever, we will eventually get it done. He’s that important to us.”
Nelson’s health, after 3 surgeries over a 9-month span last year, should impact some of those negotiations.
Next to Nelson is center Ryan Kelly, who is signed through 2024. Kelly, 28, has a cap hit north of $10 million coming up in future years.
If the Colts truly believe Pinter can be something in the interior, would they entertain a potential trade of Kelly, which would help a growing cap situation?
It’s been a while since the Colts faced multiple questions along their offensive line, but that’s the case in the 2022 offseason.
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