My #1 concern for the Colts for most of the offseason and preseason has been the O-Line. Without a healthy, capable line, the Painter-Brandstater debate is moot. Without a healthy, capable line, the Addai-Brown debate is moot. Hell, without a healthy, capable line, the Brady-Manning debate could wind up being moot. I know that Manning has a quick release and still shows escapability, but without a healthy, capable line, chances are Manning will be more exposed to risk of serious injury.
With that as a backdrop, let's look at the recent decisions to release OT Adam Terry from the team, and sign OT Xavier Fulton to the practice squad...
Yesterday I posted my reactions to the decisions made on cut-down day, where I had noted that I both understood and was not unhappy with the release of OT Adam Terry from the team. Adam Schefter reported that the Colts were interested in re-signing Terry after Week 1 so that his salary would not be guaranteed, a mechanism to retain Terry but with insurance against his apparently-still-healing knee. (Terry went under the knife twice last year to remove a cyst from his knee and then later for microfracture surgery.)
After watching Terry in the preseason games, I came to the conclusion that most did, that he was not good... at all. But I trusted the idea that this was at least in part due to his knee not being ready yet, and liked the idea of re-signing him in Week 1. In fact I wrongly proposed that he should be signed to the practice squad (he's not eligible) - this is how much I wanted to give this man a chance. Alas, Terry decided that being released from the squad was a slight, and decided to take his talents to South... California. Perhaps Freeney will make mincemeat of Terry at the end of November...
So how did the Colts respond?
They signed yet another O-Lineman returning from injury - Xavier Fulton. According to his Wikipedia entry, Fulton suffered a season-ending knee injury while in college, and suffered yet another season-ending injury while with the Buccaneers (who drafted him in the 5th round last year). I could not find any details on which knee was injured in each circumstance. While limited during OTAs, he was cleared medically at the start of training camp this year, and participated in all four preseason games.
I'll admit I'm a little skeptical of a lineman who last year was reportedly set to be part of the team (before his injury), but who this year couldn't stick to a team whose O-line is ranked in the lower half of the league. Add to that the importance of a lineman's knees to his on-the-job performance, and I am even more nonplussed by his addition. But Fulton does offer some upside - he is only 24 years old (4 years younger than Terry), and he has a unique background... he played on the defensive side of the ball for 3 years at Illinois before switching to the other side and becoming a solid player at LT. He is said to love to get out to the open and lay into linebackers.
Finally, it is most likely that Fulton was drawn to the man who originally recruited him to play at Illinois, Ron Turner. Turner is now the Colts' Receivers Coach, and likely pulled Polian's ear about this young man. So while I am skeptical that Fulton will contribute much this year while recovering from his injury and learning the Colts' system (made more complex by Manning's gyrations behind the line), I am hopeful that he could be a long-term contributor.