According to The Athletic’s Zak Keefer, despite the Indianapolis Colts expressing initial interest in former Chicago Bears left tackle Charles Leno, their head coach, Frank Reich, ‘wanted the deal done’ with ex-Kansas City Chiefs’ blindside bookend Eric Fisher late last week:
“Two left tackles quickly became targets: Charles Leno Jr., who was surprisingly cut by the Bears two days after the draft ended, and Eric Fisher, the longtime Chief who’s started 113 games since being the first overall pick in 2013,” Keefer writes. “Fisher was released by Kansas City in March in a cost-cutting move after he tore his Achilles in the Chiefs’ AFC Championship Game victory over the Bills.”
“The Colts initially had talks with Leno and showed interest, but the focus shifted after Fisher visited later in the week. Head coach Frank Reich wanted the deal done, and the Colts signed the two-time Pro Bowler on Monday to a one-year deal, according to a league source.”
Somewhat surprisingly, it wasn’t Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who was previously familiar with Fisher from their time together in Kansas City, who presumably pushed the hardest for bringing the big man on board.
Both former Pro Bowl left tackles, Leno and Fisher, who were surprising releases respectively in their own right, would’ve presented significant upgrades to otherwise projected Colts’ starting left tackle Sam Tevi—meaning Indianapolis would’ve been lucky to have either, especially at this late stage of free agency (with often slim pickings).
That being said, it sounds like Reich clearly wanted Fisher above Leno—all things else considered.
It’s worth speculating that a key reason why is that the top overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft is the superior athlete and pass protector—when fully healthy.
Featuring a RAS [Relative Athletic Score] of 9.82 out of a maximum of 10.0:
And an impressive spider chart:
And athletic comparisons to former Colts’ 2011 first round pick Anthony Castonzo:
It’s not hard to see that Fisher is an elite athlete along the blindside, which helped make him such a tantalizing top offensive tackle prospect coming out of Central Michigan in 2013.
Per PFF (subscription), he received a +77.0 pass blocking grade during 15 starts last season compared to Leno’s +70.0 pass blocking grade in all 16 starts.
So specifically, how would Fisher benefit the Colts in comparison?
Well, as the superior athlete, Fisher can pull, trap, and get out into space—consistently climbing to the second and third level of defenses on screens and in run blocking.
The Colts ask their offensive linemen to do this a lot already and feature four athletic offensive linemen from left guard to right tackle, so Fisher should fit right in as the 5th (and final) potential championship piece.
Two, the Colts presumably want to take more calculated deep shots with new quarterback Carson Wentz’s improved rifle arm behind center. Theoretically, Fisher should be able to better hold up on an island against an edge rusher to buy Wentz more time to go downfield.
Overall, Fisher’s arrival should provide the Colts’ offense additional versatility (along with being a considerable upgrade)—assuming he eventually gets fully healthy again.