The offensive side of the football for the Indianapolis Colts corrected itself fairly quickly after the departure of Peyton Manning, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai and Pierre Garcon. Andrew Luck proved himself to be an elite caliber quarterback in his rookie year. Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener give the Colts two of the league's best tight ends. Vick Ballard looks like a young version of Edgerrin James and TY Hilton is already as fast and more sure-handed than the departed Garcon.
One area still suspect for the Colts, however, is the offensive line. It's really quite amazing what the Colts were able to do this season with the patchwork line put together. Anthony Castonzo was the team's constant at left tackle, but the other line positions were filled by new faces and were forced to play multiple positions because of injury.
Only Castonzo and Joe Reitz would appear to be shoe-ins to return to the Colts roster come 2013. Winston Justice wasn't bad, but was inconsistent and often injured. He's an unrestricted free agent and the Colts are likely to spend their money upgrading his right tackle position. Samson Satele also missed much of 2012 with injuries and Jeff Linkenbach, though versatile, is also a free agent.
AQ Shipley, Mike McGlynn and Bradley Sowell will all be given the chance to make the team in camp, but none of those three distinguished themselves enough in 2012 to warrant a starter's role in 2013. Here's who is on the market along the offensive line this off season. This may be an area where Ryan Grigson chooses to devote some serious cash to upgrade and give Andrew Luck a cleaner pocket for 2013.
Jake Long- Long has been one of the better left tackles in the game for quite awhile, but is getting a little long in the tooth. Putting him at right tackle and pairing him with Castonzo would be a tremendous upgrade on the perimeter of the Colts' line. Signing Long and spending an early draft pick on a prospect who would be ready to step in in two or three years would be a great move for the Colts.
Sebastian Vollmer- Vollmer is a natural right tackle and the Patriots are famous for letting free agents walk (see Vinatieri, Adam).
Ryan Clady- Clady's sack numbers went down tremendously with the arrival of Peyton Manning and his quick release. He's a very good run blocker, however, and the Colts need someone on that right side who can give them the ability to run that way. This season's running game was pretty exclusively behind Castonzo. I'm not sure John Elway will let Clady go without a fight.
Phil Loadholt- He's a great blocker and pass protector, but racked up 11 penalties in 16 starts for the Minnesota Vikings.
Louis Vasquez- He's only 26 and already one of the best in the NFL. He should be a top re-signing target of Tom Telesco, but if he drops the ball, Telesco's former employers should jump on it.
Andy Levitre- Given the opportunity to get out of Buffalo, you'd have to think he'd jump at it. Levitre is very nimble for a guard and played some right tackle as well. Grigson loves versatile linemen.
Kevin Boothe- Here's another versatile interior lineman who can play center as well. He would give the Colts some great push off the line that they desperately need.
It's a very deep group of guards, but because of age and injuries, none of the rest really stand out as upgrades from McGlynn or Linkenbach.
The fact that the Colts didn't miss a beat without Samson Satele says a lot about his impact. I don't see AQ Shipley as the long-term answer at center. With Luck entering just his second season and a new offensive coordinator coming in, now would be a good time to lock up a quality center who can help Luck grow.
Unfortunately, it's not a deep group of folks who would be an upgrade there who aren't restricted free agents. Most of the accomplished free agents at center are too old (Dan Koppen) and wouldn't fit what the Colts are trying to do at the position.
Most likely, the Cotls will stick with Satele and Shipley for another year. Look for them to address the position in the middle rounds of the draft.
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