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Balzer: Nelson, Smith Put Mewhort on the Bubble

Did the Colts drafting Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith put Jack Mewhort on the roster bubble?

Cleveland Browns v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The Indianapolis Colts thought enough of fifth-year offensive guard Jack Mewhort to re-sign him this offseason. Mewhort is a good player among a Colts group that’s needed them, so why not? He may be a good player, but he has only played one full season and has missed 19 games in his career — that’s really the only reason why not.

When the Colts re-signed Mewhort and brought in free agent Matt Slauson, it seemed like either would have a pretty good shot at starting the year at guard. But then the draft came, and with it two guards in the top 40 picks — Quenton Nelson at No. 6. and Braden Smith at No. 37.

Nelson is already in the starting lineup in OTA’s at left guard, and Smith is currently the second-team right guard. Slauson, however, has been lining up as the starting right guard, with Mewhort handling second-team left guard duties. The Colts have also been cautious with Mewhort (among several others) with their practice reps so far, not having them participate in team drills each day.

Howard Balzer of recently put out a list of NFL veterans from each team who are now on the roster bubble as a result of teams’ rookie pickups. In Balzer’s opinion, the acquisitions of Nelson and Smith could cause Mewhort’s bubble to burst:

G Jack Mewhort: Mewhort re-signed with Indianapolis in late March after battling knee injuries the past couple of seasons. When healthy, Mewhort is one of the best offensive linemen on the Colts roster. The problem is that he can’t seem to stay healthy. Now back with a one-year contract, it will be interesting to see if the former Ohio Stare offensive lineman can stay on the field for an extended amount of time. His presence, along with 2018 draftees Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith, could give Indianapolis some much needed help.

Obviously no other NFL team knows more about Mewhort’s knees than the Colts, so the fact that they elected to re-sign him shows that they think he can continue to be a good player and be on the field. However, make no mistake that this is the perfect example of a “prove it” deal. His contract is for one year and $1.5 million, but only $300,000 of it is guaranteed. He must prove that he is still the quality player that he is capable of being while competing against Slauson and Smith — there is no competition against Nelson. You could even throw Joe Haeg, Denzelle Good, Le’Raven Clark and Jeremy Vujnovich in the mix, as all have starting experience at guard.

If Mewhort can stay on the practice field this summer and look like his old self, then maybe he earns a starting role over Slauson. If not, the Colts should be comfortable moving forward with a healthy Slauson while Smith waits in the wings.