With OG Donald Thomas now out for the season after re-tearing his quad, the Colts are noticeably thin in the interior of their offensive line. The major free agency period came and went without the Colts making any significant veteran signings and now, the team faces some serious question marks concerning its interior offensive line. Thomas’s return was expected to be a major part of the solution, now his year-long loss causes a dilemma.
Like always, it will be “Next Man Up” for the Colts, and in this instance, it will most likely be Rookie 2nd Round Pick, Jack Mewhort, who will answer the call at starting Left Guard. Still, Mewhort, while seemingly talented, is still only a rookie. Between him, starting Center Khaled Holmes, and Right Guard Hugh Thornton, they have 12 total career starts between them (all by Thornton).
This raises the question as to whether the Colts will look at bringing in a veteran guard to compete for a starting job. This would provide competition for Mewhort, while also providing an insurance policy in case he falters. While the free agent guard market is now noticeably barren, there are still a few remaining veteran options, which we’ve taken the liberty to analyze below:
Wade Smith, OG, 10-yr veteran: At age 33, Smith has spent the last 4 seasons with the Houston Texans. Impressively, he’s started in all 16 games during each of those seasons. Although incredibly durable, Smith’s best football is likely behind him. He’s probably an average starting guard at best at this point in his career. However, with 98 career starts, Smith’s experience and leadership could pay dividends for the Colts’ inexperienced interior 0ffensive line. The Texans haven’t ruled out re-signing Smith, but it appears his price tag is too rich at this juncture, and they’re looking to get younger at the position, perhaps as a direct result.
The advanced stats provided by ProFootballFocus (PFF) didn’t shine all too positive of a light on Smith’s play in 2013, as he graded out as the 58th best guard behind ex-Colt Jeff Linkenbach (yikes!). Still, the advanced stats should be taken with a grain of salt, much like anything else.
Dan Koppen, C, 11-year veteran: At age 34, Koppen missed all of last season with a torn ACL while with the Denver Broncos. A familiar foe to the Colts, having spent 9 previous seasons with the New England Patriots, Koppen has played predominantly as a center during his NFL career. It’s unclear whether he can make an easy transition to guard, especially in the twilight of his career and coming off a major knee surgery. How much productive football he has left is simply the big question. Yet, with 132 career starts, much like Smith, he’d add some much needed experience and leadership to the position.
According to PFF, Koppen graded out rather favorably in 2012 while with the Denver Broncos. He started in 12 games and graded out as the 19th best center overall. If he can regain his prior form, he may be worth a serious look.
David Baas, OG/C, 9-year veteran: At age 32, Baas is a bit younger than the two aforementioned candidates. A former 2nd round pick of the 49ers in 2005 out of Michigan, Baas has had a relatively solid if unspectacular career up to this point. He’s played his 9-career with both the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants, having been with the Giants for the last 3 seasons. He started in just 3 games for the Giants in 2013, all at Center. After battling injuries previously, he was placed on season-ending IR after a knee injury suffered against the Vikings in Week 7. With 84 career starts, he’d add much experience to the Colts’ current interior group.
According to PFF, he was below average in his 3 games at Center in 2013, coming in as the 36th best center. While he was below now unexpected Colts’ signee and retiree, Phil Costa, at 34th (gulp!), he was ahead of the Steelers’ Maurkice Pouncey, at 37th, who is among the most highly regarded Centers in the NFL. It just goes to show that the advanced stats should be taken in stride. If fully healthy, he’s worth a look.
Richie Incognito, OG, 9-year veteran: At age 31, Incognito is the best player on this list as far as performance. He was an NFL Pro-Bowler in 2012 and is regarded as one of the toughest and perhaps, even dirtiest offensive lineman in all of football. That alone, and NFL GM’s would be lining up to sign him for his edge and production. However, Incognito throughout his NFL career has been maligned with off the field altercations, usually involving his volatile temperament. This reached a boiling point in 2013, when he was suspended from the Miami Dolphins indefinitely in November of 2013 for his harassment of then-teammate OT Jonathan Martin. At this point, most NFL GM’s wouldn’t touch Incognito with a 9-foot pole. He’s neither worth the risk of being cancerous in the locker room nor the unneeded media distraction for a team trying to focus on winning football games.
The advanced stats provided by PFF, one again showed that Incognito was an exceptional guard. He graded out as the 25th best guard overall (both left and right). It’s unfortunate that his career has come to this because from purely a football perspective, he’d be a welcome addition to most football teams, let alone the Colts. Even with his 102 career starts, he’s not worth the headaches and risk for the Colts, and he’s the one guy on this list that I’d safely rule out.
The Colts have always been an organization that has prided itself on the strong character of its players, coaches, and personnel. By adding a potentially rotten apple like Incognito, the organization would risk polluting a pristine image that it’s worked so diligently to create through the years. Colts’ Head Coach Chuck Pagano has always preached of leading “Great Men”, not just football players.