With Colts fans looking forward to next season and wondering about potential moves that the Colts might make this offseason, I have heard numerous names tossed around and have been asked about numerous players. First is about Browns center Alex Mack, who is due to become a free agent (my answer: YES, the Colts should absolutely go after him). Perhaps the player I have been asked about the second most is a player still under contract with his current team and one that is not due to become a free agent this year. It's Dolphins offensive lineman Jonathan Martin.
As you surely know by now, Martin left the Dolphins in October of 2013 amid claims that he was bullied, namely by teammate Richie Incognito. That provoked a variety of opinions throughout the league, ranging from anger toward Incognito all the way to people criticizing Martin for being too soft. Martin has not returned to the team since leaving in October but wants to continue playing football. He recently said this to former Colts head coach and current NBC analyst Tony Dungy, per an NFL.com story:
Martin felt the overdose of vulgarity in the Dolphins' locker room was too much to take.
"It was comments of a racial nature, aggressive, sexual comments related to my sister and my mother," Martin said. "I spoke to my teammates, former teammates in other locker rooms across the NFL and asked, 'Does this stuff go on? Is this normal rookie hazing?' The consensus was this is not normal."
Additionally, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was asked recently whether Martin (who is still under contract with the Dolphins) would return to the team in 2014. This per ESPN:
During a news conference Tuesday, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross was asked whether either player would return to the team in 2014.
"I don't believe so," he said.
Ross quickly tried to backtrack, but his first answer was already out.
"Well, I can't say that. Therefore, I retract that," Ross said, laughing. "One is a free agent, by the way; the other is on our roster."
The common and widespread belief around the league is that Martin will not be back with the Dolphins next year. Naturally, that has resulted in fans asking the question of whether their team would consider signing him. This is no different (and probably amplified) among Colts fans.
The second round pick by the Dolphins in 2012 and two-time All-American at Stanford, Martin started 23 games before leaving the team mid-season in 2013, and he played at both right and left tackle. The Colts make sense as a landing spot, considering their great needs along the offensive line and the fact that they have such a strong Stanford influence.
Several have asked me about Martin and whether the Colts should go after him should he be released. Let me emphasize that point very clearly to start off: he is still under contract with the Dolphins. While the belief may be that he won't be back, he is still under contract at the moment. Keep that in mind.
As far as if the Colts should pursue him should he be released, there are two main questions that need answered:
1) How will the locker room respond and how will they treat treat him?
As I mentioned earlier, there are a variety of opinions about Jonathan Martin. Several of his teammates thought he was too soft, and in the NFL players don't like or respect that very much. Wherever he goes, this question will certainly come up. In my opinion, it could work with the Colts. They have a very strong Stanford connection, with quarterback Andrew Luck, tight end Coby Fleener, wide receiver Griff Whalen, safety Delano Howell, and offensive coordinator all being with Martin at Stanford at some point. That would help a lot with the locker room culture. Additionally, the culture in the Colts locker room is a good one and one that emphasizes the family and relationship aspect of it - which Chuck Pagano is big on. Additionally, we have seen Andrew Luck gain a ton of respect and a ton of leadership in the locker room and the players really listen to and respect him. Luck is good friends with Martin and if the team signed the offensive lineman, it could be his quarterback protecting him this time from the rest of the locker room, and if Luck gives a strong endorsement of Martin and tells everyone to treat him respectfully, it would certainly have a big impact. I think the locker room question will be a big factor several places, but I don't necessarily think that will be the case with the Colts and in fact I think it's probably the best option for Martin - that is, if the second question is answered.
2) Can he play guard?
This is the question I don't really have an answer to. Martin has always played tackle (primarily left tackle), and the Colts have two good tackles in Anthony Castonzo and Gosder Cherilus who aren't going anywhere. Thus, if Martin were signed by the Colts he would either be as depth or as a guard. While he would be great depth, I don't see any way he's signed just for depth. The real question to me on whether the Colts should pursue Martin if he is released is the question of whether he'll be able to play guard. Some linemen have the ability to play both tackle and guard, but whether or not Martin is one of those players, I don't really know. I do know that Martin is a good young offensive lineman, blocking well in pass protection and an even better run blocker, but I'm not sure how he'd translate to guard. More so than any of the off the field concerns or questions, my biggest question when it pertains to Martin is where he would play on the Colts and how he would do there.
The Colts absolutely need offensive line help and Jonathan Martin is certainly a good young offensive lineman. I think the Colts would be a good locker room fit for him, but I do wonder how he would fit in on the offensive line. It was bad in 2013, but the tackles both played very well and won't be replaced this offseason. IF Jonathan Martin is released (again - IF), I absolutely think that the Colts should look into signing him and, if they think he can play guard, I'd be all for signing him.