Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Colts offensive line stinks. It has since Andrew Luck was drafted. Now you could argue that play calling has been part of the problem. You could say that Luck holds the ball too long. It would even be fair to say that the receivers don’t get separation quick enough and that leads to more pressures. All those things would be true. But the fact is, this line has let its franchise quarterback take far too many hits, and cannot reliably impose the run on defenses in order to hold leads.
Chris Ballard took a chainsaw to the defense last season and almost completely remade it through the draft and free agency. That was necessary, and the offense might get the same treatment this year. There are some pieces there along the line. Ryan Kelly has done a solid job at center, given the ever-changing cast he has been surrounded with. While he has had his ups and downs, Anthony Costanzo has been a mostly reliable and valuable part of the team more often than not. He certainly does better at the left tackle position than anyone else on the roster would do. However, that is the point where any kind of real value ends.
Jack Mewhort, who has played well when healthy, has a knee injury that could linger and will likely mean he is not re-signed. Denzelle Good and Le’Raven Clark are really no better than depth players at the tackle position, although they might be able to be developed into starters. Joe Haeg and Deyshawn Bond are the same for the guard position. While they might provide solid backups, they really have little business starting with any regularity.
With so many college teams running spread formation offenses and turning out linemen who are not developed adequately to succeed immediately at the NFL level, options to dramatically improve the line will be tough to come by in the draft. At least not in the numbers the Colts need to fix their problems. That means it will be critical for the Colts to look to free agency to bolster the line.
So today, we are going to take a look at three players who would make good additions to the roster to fill roles on the interior of the Colts line, which has consistently been their weakest area.
Andrew Norwell G – Panthers
At 26 years old, Andrew Norwell might be one of the best upgrades the Colts could find for the interior of the offensive line. He had a great season and ends it as a first-team All-Pro for the Panthers, who decided to pay guard Trai Turner and are unlikely to be able to keep him. Norwell has started 16 games in both of the last two seasons and has proven to be one of the most reliable interior offensive linemen in the league, with PFF ranking him as the 5th highest graded run blocking guard in the league in 2015 and has him graded as the 3rd highest guard overall this season. For a team that has the cap space and has perpetually lacked young talent on the offensive line, this guy seems like a borderline must for the Colts this offseason.
James Hurst G – Ravens
The next player the Colts should have a look at is James Hurst. Hurst is a versatile young offensive lineman from Baltimore who can play at the guard and tackle positions. He graded out as the 7th best pass blocking left guard in the league this past year, and he’s just 26 years old. While his preference is to the guard position, being able to be flexible about where he plays will be invaluable as the Colts seem to be constantly plagued with injuries. If they were able to add a young, talented guard to the line they would be solidifying a role that has been a revolving door of bodies for far too long.
Zach Fulton G – Chiefs
Like Hurst, Fulton’s biggest asset is that he has position flexibility. He started 12 games for the Chiefs this season and according to Arrowhead Pride, has found success playing various roles on the line when needed. As the Chief’s sixth man on the offensive line, he may want more money than they are willing to give and could become available.
Fulton will be a well-known player to Chris Ballard, as he was the Chiefs’ sixth-round pick in the 2014 draft. No one will be better suited to know if he is a good fit with what the Colts are looking for than Ballard, although if Dave Toub or Matt Nagy are hired for the head coaching job, they will be even more plugged in on Fulton’s potential. If you are the Colts, you can simply not have too many talented young offensive linemen, and Fulton might be the perfect guy to add as a depth player or even a starter.