As we all expected through seven weeks, the Indianapolis Colts have a (potentially) top-five defense and excellent skill position players on offense; we all saw this coming, right? As predicted by literally no one, the offensive line has limited the offense to the point that they have only scored more than 20 points in a game once this season. In that one high-scoring game, the Colts gave Matt Ryan more time than he has had in any other game this season, and he took the opportunity to throw for 389 yards and three touchdowns. While there have been other issues for this Colts team, they will not have a realistic chance to compete for the remainder of the year without first finding an answer.
Some people will want to argue if this season is worth saving; while that’s a silly argument, it’s not the conversation we’re having here. Historically the Colts have been quiet at the deadline, but for the first time in the Chris Ballard/Frank Reich era, Jim Irsay has given them an ultimatum. If the Colts remain quiet again this season, maybe their seats aren’t as hot as some seem to believe. Frankly, I believe it’s unlikely a deal will happen for Indy, but if it does, it means several seats are much hotter than I thought.
This is what makes the NFL the greatest reality show of all time. The game itself is excellent, but all the drama that has to happen for the games to happen is unmatched. During Chris Ballard’s run, this team hasn’t lacked drama, but much of it has been drama that was out of his control. We should all hope for some drama at the deadline this year for the Colts, and these are the guys we should hope Ballard is making calls on this week.
1. Austin Corbett, G, Carolina Panthers
Austin Corbett's play strength, anchor, & ability to strain are very impressive. Quietly one of the 5-6 best RGs in football. pic.twitter.com/z8BIEru2y8— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) September 29, 2021
After firing head coach Matt Rhule, the Carolina Panthers roster is for sale. And it just so happens one of the best players Rhule signed plays the same position as the worst Colts starter: right guard.
Some will argue that left tackle is the bigger need, and while I agree it’s the more important position, if the Colts have to live with Dennis Kelly, they can survive. If you can upgrade a tackle position, you do it, but the cost to get a left tackle is exponentially higher than it is to acquire a guard. Therefore the easy top choice for the Colts is Austin Corbett.
Corbett would shore up the right side of the offensive line instantly. He would be a massive upgrade in both the run and the pass, and it would consistently give Matt Ryan room to move up in the pocket. Corbett is 27 years old and in the first year of a three-year, $26 million deal. Before you start to screech about the Colts already having the highest-paid line in football, I have three points to make: 1. It’s not your money. 2. Corbett has an out in his contract after next season. 3. There’s always the chance the Panthers will be willing to eat a nice chunk of that cash in exchange for a pick.
So what does the compensation look like for a young top-of-the-line guard? History tells us not that much. Corbett himself was traded back in October 2019 for a 2021 5th-rounder. That said, at the time, Corbett was a draft bust after being taken 33rd overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Cleveland Browns. Between October 2019 and October 2022, Corbett has developed into a much better player. Another thing to consider is that if the Colts want the Panthers to eat some of that cap, they might have to pay a premium.
Expected compensation: Conditional 4th/5th rounder.
It would make sense for the Colts to send a 5th that could turn into a 4th for playing time in exchange for the rebuilding Panthers to take on some of his large cap hit.
2. Brady Christenson, T/G, Panthers
Only matter of time before Brady Christensen is a Panthers starting OT - but where?— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) August 23, 2021
He's played mostly RT in preseason - but that's Taylor Moton spot (#5 on @BrandonThornNFL RT ranking). I'd like to see some LT reps next week - take Cam Ervings job
Fantastic reps 1-on-1 vs Oweh pic.twitter.com/kVgsgVSuxD
Right now, Brady Christensen is starting at left guard for the Panthers. At BYU, he played left tackle, and in the pre-season, he got a lot of burn at right tackle, as seen in the clip above. Best case, Christensen could come in and beat out Dennis Kelly at left tackle; worst case, he would be a large upgrade at right guard. He’s still on his rookie deal until after the 2024 season.
The Panthers would be willing to trade him for the right price because, as I said, they’re having a going-out-of-business sale, and they just spent a top-ten pick on a player they probably still hope will be their left tackle for the foreseeable future. The problem might come in his valuation as a guard or a tackle. It might seem silly, but his value as a tackle might be a round or so higher as a tackle, and the Panthers could want to be compensated for him as a tackle if that’s where he ends up for his new team, so that could end up being part of a conditional pick. It’s just a projection, as he hasn’t played on the edge in the NFL, but this scenario may play out.
As a guard, he is hardly a world-beater. He’s an upgrade from Matt Pryor, for sure. But he isn’t as good as Corbett, so his compensation as a guard would likely be lower than his teammate. His compensation as a tackle is tougher to pin down as it’s a complete projection.
Expected Compensation: 4th or 5th round pick for Christensen and possibly a 7th.
The issue is that even with Matt Rhule gone, the Panthers aren’t going to be highly motivated to move a talented starting-level player still on his rookie deal, so any team that wants to trade for him might have to pay a premium. I think a 4th is too much to give up for Christensen, and an extra 6th or 7th rounder doesn’t soften the blow that much. If Christensen came to Indy, he would provide an upgrade at RG and competition at LT.
3. Tevin Jenkins, G, Chicago Bears
Tevin Jenkins might be the most interesting player on this list. He was drafted in the second round of the 2021 NFL Draft, and he was drafted to play tackle. He played sparingly (and poorly) in his rookie year and was rumored to be on the trade block before the season started.
There are infinite reasons the Bears might have flirted with the idea of trading Jenkins before the season. But the explanation could be that the Bears' former regime drafted him and the new guys wanted to get any value out of a player they didn’t value. The Bears have added a lot to their line, and due to injuries, Jenkins has been elevated to a starting role. The Bears added Alex Leatherwood after he was cut from the Raiders, and they expect to have Cody Whitehair return from injury at some point this season. I’m just not sure they ever expected Jenkins to play, but while playing right guard, he’s looked good. At this point, he is a better run blocker than a pass blocker, but he is young with upside.
The biggest problem with Jenkins coming to Indy is that even though the Chicago Bears are bad at football with almost no hope of improving enough to contend this season, I’m not sure the first-time GM and head coach combo of Ryan Poles and Matt Eberflus is going to be sold on the idea of waving the white flag before the halfway mark of their first season. Also, if you’re Poles, it doesn’t matter if Jenkins flamed out as a tackle; it wasn’t your pick, and all of a sudden you find yourself with someone who might end up being a 10-year starter at right guard. I understand the justification if you decide not to move him.
Ten weeks ago, Jenkins could have been traded for a 7th round pick and a conditional ham sandwich. Now, I’m not so sure the Bears will be so willing to move him, at least not for a price that would be palatable. But precedent tells us he’s likely worth a mid to late-day three pick, a team might have to give up more than he’s worth to get the Bears to let him go.
Expected Compensation: 5th round pick/ Not on the block
I think a 5th round pick is a little rich for Jenkins, but the Bears might want more. If they want more than a 5, he’s effectively not available for trade.
4. Dalton Risner, G, Denver Broncos
LG Dalton Risner with the sweet pull and adjustment on Power, WR Tim Patrick doing the dirty work and how about TE Noah Fant with the legit down block to get the play going. pic.twitter.com/qSejWVO8zJ— Nate Tice (@Nate_Tice) May 20, 2021
Dalton Risner is the first name on the list that I’m not confident would make an easy transition to playing RG, and he can’t play either tackle spot. With that said, if you ask Chris Blystone how I felt about Risner going into the 2019 NFL Draft, he might describe it as true love. I loved Risner’s game at Kansas State. He was a bully who played through the whistle and had position versatility. In the NFL, he was planted at left guard, and he’s been there ever since. He’s a good enough athlete to make the transition, but I think it might take him some time.
The other issue is that, much like the Bears, I don’t know if the Denver Broncos are ready to sell. Again, like the Bears, they should be. They gave up multiple first-round picks for a quarterback in Russell Wilson, while his former team upgraded from him with Geno Smith. This team needs all the help it can get if they expect to compete in 2023.
If the Broncos are ready to do any business, they might move Risner because he is set to be a free agent after this season. He isn’t likely to garner big money on the open market, so it’s not like the Broncos would be saving him for the comp pick they would get back from him. Further, they’ll have to dip into free agency heavily, so comp picks are pretty far out the window for them. Helping the case for moving Risner is their talented rookie guard Quinn Meinerz. Meinerz has played on the right side but may have the ability at either spot.
The reasons they may not move Risner are plenty. Again, they may not be ready to sell; even if they are, they may hope to re-sign Risner to a long-term deal. Pairing Risner and Meinerz isn’t a bad idea at all. They might also prefer to keep Risner and let aging and expensive vet Graham Glasgow go in the offseason. After watching a handful of clips of Glasgow, his lowlights were enough to keep me from adding him to this list. I don’t know that he’s an upgrade over Matt Pryor.
Expected Compensation: Conditional 5th/6th
Risner hasn’t turned into the player I thought he would be when he came out of K-State, but he’s a starting-caliber guard. Starting guards on rookie deals should probably pull a 5th or 6th-round pick. This assumes the Broncos are willing to admit they badly misjudged where they would be as a team this season.
5. Andre Dillard, T, Philadelphia Eagles
Was really interested to see how #Eagles LT Andre Dillard performed on #MNF and I thought he had an impressive outing in his first start since 2019 #FlyEaglesFly— Fran Duffy (@EaglesXOs) September 28, 2021
Tune into #KCvsPHI | Oct. 3rd at 1:00 PM on CBS pic.twitter.com/7dYOag8Wkz
In what has become a yearly tradition, it is rumored the Eagles might be interested in trading away former first-round pick Andre Dillard. So far, it hasn’t happened, but this year could be different. Dillard will be a free agent after the season, and he will not draw a big money deal so that the Eagles won’t be looking forward to a comp pick, so moving him at the deadline might be the only way they get any value out of him at all.
Coming out of Washington State, Dillard was raw. Like frozen-chicken-thrown-in-the-microwave-for-25-seconds raw. But he was an elite athlete for the position. Between various injuries and the emergence of Jordan Mailata as a good starting left tackle, Dillard hasn’t been able to get on the field that much during his first four years. When he has been on the field, it hasn’t been awesome.
Dillard is the biggest unknown on this list, so I have him at number five. He might be the most physically gifted player here, but I don’t know if he would beat out Dennis Kelly, and I don’t know if he’s strong enough to hold up at right guard. He may have come a long way when he’s sat, and the Colts' pro scouts may know something about the guy that most of us don’t.
Again, I’m not sold on trading for Dillard at the deadline, but stranger things have happened. The compensation for Dillard will be interesting if a deal gets done. I’m guessing the only reason he’s an Eagle is that Howie Roseman is doing what Howie Roseman does and is refusing to trade his player unless it’s a comically lopsided deal for his team. Not that he shouldn’t do that- it’s his job, but the only reason Dillard is still in Philly is that Roseman wants too much. Also, the only reason a team that hopes to contend for a Super Bowl would even consider giving up a solid depth piece like Dillard is that their GM is Howie Roseman. Howie would trade his kids to the Houston Texans as long as he liked the compensation.
But with his back against the wall and at risk of losing Dillard and getting nothing in return this offseason, Roseman might have to face the music and accept less than he’s wanted to so far. Finding a comparable player for Dillard is tough, but my gut is telling me Roseman has wanted a day-two pick for his young tackle.
Expected Compensation: 4th and 6th round picks for Dillard and a 7th.
I don’t think I would do this deal, not for such a question mark at the position. And especially not for a Colts team that needs to fill holes right now to try to win games. Maybe he comes in and gives you that boost right away, maybe not- I’m not sold. The reason I think the comp might be that steep is Roseman. I don’t think he will love moving Dillard for less than a 3, so the 6th might make him happy, and he might throw in a 7th just to get the deal done. If he wants more than this, I could see it happening somewhere, but I don’t think Ballard would be willing to do the deal.
Chris Reed, G, Minnesota Vikings- Chris Ballard would have to admit he should have kept one of the guards he let get away, but at this point, sending a 7th-round pick to the Vikings would be worth it. The Vikings might do it because Reed hasn’t seen the field for them. Reed already knows the Colts' offense and would provide an immediate, day-one upgrade at right guard. The only question is if he left on good terms, which doesn’t seem super important if you’re trying to save the season, but you never know.
Riley Reiff, T, Chicago Bears- Old and cheap. He has only played one snap for the Bears this season and might welcome a change of scenery. The only question is, does he have anything left to give? A conditional 7th should be enough to pry him away from the Bears if they’re ready to do business.
The Trade Deadline is getting close, and last year we saw a lot of in-season movement around the league. Based on what they do next week, we’ll find out how warm the front office believes their seats are getting on West 56th street. For our sake as fans, I hope they make a move, and I hope it’s Corbett.
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