According to The Athletic’s Sheil Kapadia and NFL.com’s Nick Shook, the Indianapolis Colts are the best free agent fit for former Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Eric Fisher and Seattle Seahawks pass rusher Carlos Dunlap among top remaining free agents respectively:
Indianapolis Colts: Eric Fisher, OT
The Colts need help at wide receiver, left tackle and defensive end. You could certainly give them someone like T.Y. Hilton or Justin Houston here. But is Indianapolis really going to go through all that trouble of trading for Carson Wentz without making sure it has an answer at left tackle? Unlikely. Fisher has 113 career starts and is a two-time Pro Bowler, but he tore his Achilles in January. The Colts signed Sam Tevi, who can be a backup or a bridge until Fisher is healthy. As a point of reference, Eagles guard Brandon Brooks tore his Achilles in January 2019 and started all 16 games the next season. So Fisher being healthy by Week 1 is not out of the question.
DE Indianapolis Colts
The Colts have a ton of cap space — the second-most in the league, per Over The Cap — and Dunlap has yet to find a home despite proving in Seattle he still has some juice left in him, as evidenced by his five sacks in 2020. The Colts found similar success last season with veteran additions Xavier Rhodes (who was thought to be over the hill but played very effectively with them in 2020 and just re-signed as a result) and Justin Houston (whose departure created this need). Why not add another veteran and put him on the same defensive line as DeForest Buckner?
Regarding Fisher, the former first overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft had developed into a 2x Pro Bowler for the Chiefs, but now age 30, and coming off a late season torn Achilles (which can be a devastating career injury), it’s fair to question A) when Fisher will be fully ready during the 2021 campaign and B) if he’ll even regain his prior top blindside bookend form.
The 6’7”, 315 pound left tackle had made 113 career starts for the Chiefs.
Of course, Colts general manager Chris Ballard is already familiar with him—having been in Kansas City’s football operations when Fisher was made the draft’s top overall pick in 2013.
Per PFF (subscription), in 2020, Fisher was their 16th best graded tackle with a +80.1 overall grade during 15 starts—including a +77.0 pass blocking grade. It was the highest overall grade of his 8-year career prior to suffering the season-ending injury.
In pass protection, Fisher allowed 3.0 sacks and 34 total QB pressures during 702 total pass blocking snaps this past season.
With longtime veteran anchor Anthony Castonzo’s offseason retirement, the Colts have a glaring hole at left tackle, as the recently signed Sam Tevi and imminent reported signing of Julie’n Davenport are presumably just competition for a much needed reliable swing-tackle role next season.
This is a deep draft class though at offensive tackle, so the Colts may very well look to select a ‘plug-and-play’ starter early on in late April’s NFL Draft—instead of spending big bucks on an equally big-named veteran replacement.
That being said, if the Colts will be looking at ‘best prospect available’ early on (and aren’t looking to box themselves in at left tackle), and believe that Fisher could return earlier than anticipated in 2021, his signing could actually be a pretty savvy veteran pickup for the franchise—assuming he can return close to his old Pro Bowl caliber form.
At the very least, it’s worth considering for the Colts.
Meanwhile, the 32 year old veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap is more of a complementary rotational pass rusher at this stage of his impressive career.
However, the former 2x Pro Bowler can still be productive in getting after the quarterback, registering 6.0 sacks and 27 total QB pressures last season during 15 games (10 starts) in 2020—for both the Cincinnati Bengals and Seattle Seahawks.
Per PFF, this past season, Dunlap was their 61st best grade pass rusher with a +61.9 overall grade.
At a listed 6’6”, 285 pounds with 34 5/8” arms, Dunlap has the requisite size and length that Ballard really loves from his pass rushers—and prior experience in the Seahawks’ ‘Cover 3’ defense which is a derivative of the Colts’ ‘Cover 2’ zone defense.
Obviously, the Colts have some current edge needs, as the team lost veteran starter Denico Autry in free agency, and fellow free agents Justin Houston and Al-Quadin Muhammad could soon join him among recent defensive end departures.
Dunlap isn’t the same star pass rusher he once was, but the former 2010 2nd round pick out of Florida by the Bengals can still be a productive complementary veteran pass rusher in a team’s rotation—if given the potential opportunity.