Everyone and their grandmothers' knew that the Colts #1 priority this off-season, was to improve the Offensive Line. The majority of fans are saying that they did; but let me ask you this: Have you ever gotten a test, with an 'A+', already written on it (outside of the bribes)? No, because you don't know what you've got until you've actually seen it. Most fans are saying we have a decent line now, when 2/5 of the starters haven't even played a single snap in the NFL! Until proven otherwise (and please, prove me otherwise) the Colts Offensive Line is still questionable. Our rookies have potential, but until they reach it, we can't truly say our line is fixed. Lets look a bit further into it...
Our Lineman: Anthony Costanzo, Jeff Linkenbach, Kyle DeVan, Jamey Richards, Jeff Saturday, Jacques McClendon, Mike Pollak, Ben Ijalana, Ryan Diem This is excluding training squad fodder such as James William, Mike Tepper, ect. First I'll start off by saying Jamie Thomas will not be on the 2012 Colts roster. When Diem was out with injury, they activated James William AND started him over Jamie Thomas. This shows that the Colts FO doesn't have much confidence in him, and he hasn't done anything in his career so far to earn it. This is why I didn't put him with the main lineman above.
Depth Chart: With that in mind, out of the 9 lineman I named, only Kyle DeVan (LG) Jeff Saturday (C) have proven themselves to be capable of starting; and Kyle DeVan is average at best while Jeff Saturday is on the last year of his contract and is rapidly declining. Also Costanzo will most likely start at Left Tackle, due to his draft status and the fact that we have no other capable players. This means the left side of the line is pretty much decided. Let's look at the right side. The 3 players capable of 'starting' at RT would be Ryan Diem, Jeff Linkenbach and Ben Ijalana. First, Ryan Diem was resigned to be more of a mentor, rather than a starter, so expect him to be purely depth this season. Linkenbach showed promise in the little playing time he recieved, but in the end, due to his lack of strength, I don't see him beating out Ijalana. Ijalana is a better run blocker than Link, and has far more upside which is why he will start. I doubt the Colts traded up just for him to sit the bench this season (they did that with Fili Moala, but still). This puts Linkenbach at the "bachup" (sorry, I couldn't resist) at LT. This leaves Mike Pollak, Jamey Richards and Jacques McClendon at RG. Jacques McClendon is most likely still raw and undeveloped. I make this assumption because when Pollak was benched, Linkenbach started OVER him. If you haven't seen them, there's a reason right? I think he will fill in for Jeff Saturday next season when he retires, and until then will play the backup position at RG. Now, Mike Pollak or Jamey Richards. Mike Pollak is slightly better than Jamey Richards, but thats like saying that Aids is better than Cancer. However, as inconsistant as Pollak may be, after he was reinserted back into the starting lineup, he was the Colts best lineman for the final 4 games of the 2011 season (although thats not saying much). Thats why he'll get the nod, and Jamey Richards will be the depth player for LG. Starters: Anthony Costanzo - Kyle DeVan - Jeff Saturday - Mike Pollak - Ben Ijalana Depth: Jeff Linkenbach - Jamey Richards - Jake Kirkpatrick - Jacques McClendon - Ryan Diem This gives us 2 rookies with high potential, a hall of fame center, a solid guard, and an inconsistent guard that has proved he can play well. If this is the case, the only type of free agency signing I would expect is a veteran RT that will allow us to release Jamey Richards, move McClendon over to LG, and let Ijalana start RG with Pollak backing him up. This is so we wouldn't have to start two rookie tackles. I also expect Jake Kirkpatrick to make it onto the roster, and although the Colts typically don't use 10 roster slots on just lineman, its possible that 2 of them retire next season, and that 2 of them will not be resigned. The 10th spot for Kirkpatrick gives another option in replacing Jeff Saturday, or at the very least, solid depth behind center.
Free Agents: Jared Gaither, a proven franchise left tackle that has suffered some serious back injuries. He failed a physical in Oakland and is still currently a free agent. We could give him an incentive based deal for 1 year. Low risk, high reward. However, it is reported that Gaither ONLY wants to play LT, and in essence, wants LT money. He has been a free agent for 1 week, and there hasn't been too much interest in him. This and his injuries should lower his asking price to about 2-3mil a year. Signing him would put Costanzo at RT, Ijalana at RG and Pollak to the bottom of the depth chart where he belongs. Nick Kazkur, he played well at New England for a couple of years but also has suffered a few injuries. The last time we signed a NE free agent (Adam Vinatieri), it worked out pretty well. His injuries and lack of interest from other teams should also put him within our budget. On paper, the Colts have a slightly above average line. However, you can never truly anticipate how these things will play out. Saturday could have possibly forgotten how to do line calls because he spent too much time on the CBA instead of on the field. Or Pollak might have finally gotten his head straight and might go to the Pro Bowl this year (remember, Pollak has all the upside in the world.. it's the mental mistakes that kill him). And until the season starts, I have confidence that the line will protect Peyton to another MVP. Go Colts.