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Colts free agency 2017: Should the Colts re-sign Hugh Thornton?

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The new league year begins next month, and with it comes the start of the free agency period in the NFL. The Colts have several guys who will become free agents at that point, but there may be some of them worth re-signing. We’ll be taking a look at each one of them and discussing whether it would be a good idea for the Colts to bring them back or not. We continue today with Hugh Thornton.

For some people, it might be a surprise to find out that Hugh Thornton is in fact still under contract with the Colts - at least for a few more weeks. He’s set to become a free agent when the new league year starts, and it’s been an up and down four years for him in Indianapolis.

Drafted by the Colts in the third round of the 2013 NFL Draft, Thornton has played in 37 games with the Colts and started 32 over the past four years. He started 12 games as a rookie, eight games in 2014, and then 12 games in 2015, but he missed the entire 2016 season due to injury. That’s one of the big struggles Thornton has had: he’s struggled to stay healthy. In each of the last three seasons, he’s wound up on injured reserve for at least part of that year, and then obviously last year it resulted in him missing the entire regular season.

When healthy, Thornton had his ups and downs on the field, but the biggest negative has been his availability. When a guy can’t stay healthy, it doesn’t matter what kind of talent he has. And for Thornton, that talent really doesn’t outweigh the risk of injuries. The Colts could use good depth on the offensive line, but it’s uncertain whether Thornton will be brought back to be one of those guys. Chris Ballard doesn’t have ties to him, and there are other depth guys already on the roster (like, for example, Jon Harrison) who won’t have to be re-signed. Bringing back a guy that hasn’t played in well over a year who’s struggled with injuries in the past three years and would likely be just for depth purposes? I think that says enough about Thornton’s chances of being brought back with the Colts.

The only argument for bringing back Thornton would go something like this: he won’t cost much, so why not bring him back as a depth lineman and let him compete for a spot in training camp? If that’s the case, it’s possible the Colts could do it, but it’s much more likely that we’ve seen the last of Hugh Thornton in a Colts uniform - and that’s probably the best move for them to make anyway.