A few days ago, I published an article on the potential Colts Free Agent Left Tackles, feeling pretty confident that I got all the options available at the time (no, Dennis Kelley was not an option, in my opinion for LT). However, within 24 hours of it being published, news broke that Charles Leno Jr. was released from the Bears following their drafting of Teven Jenkins early in Round 2 of the draft.
Well, so much for that article…
Since then, my top choice Alejandro Villanueva signed with the Ravens (as I noted was a possibility at the time). There have also been reports of the Colts giving Eric Fisher a medical check-up to evaluate his recovery and timeline from an Achilles injury suffered in January, as well as talks between Leno’s representatives and the Colts. Leno has even received a fan-made ballad requesting for him to come to the Colts. Whether or not the siren’s call will sway Leno is to be determined; however, it is clear that there is mutual interest and connections between the Colts and both free-agent veteran blindside protectors. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and here we will go over the pros and cons for both Fisher or Leno to come to Indianapolis.
Eric Fisher, LT, 30
- Well polished and accomplished pass protector, 2020 was his best season yet.
- Is a decent run blocker
- Has played at a solid level for a long time, allowed only 4 or less sacks 5/6 years since 2015 (only exception was 2016)
- Very consistent year to year
- Has familiarity with GM Chris Ballard
- 2x Pro Bowler in 2018 and 2020
- Older option (30)
- Suffered Achilles injury in January 2021
- timeline to recover is 9-12 months
- likely won’t be able to play until several weeks into the season, could be as late as November/December even
- No guarantee he will be back to the same level or maintain durability post-injury recovery
- Also missed 1/2 of 2019 season with a core muscle injury, did return for their entire SB run in the playoffs
Charles Leno Jr., LT, 29
- The younger option at age 29 for the start of the 2021 season (will turn 30 in October)
- Rebounded nicely in 2020 with only 3 sacks allowed and close to the same pressure rate allowed as Fisher
- No current injuries, has yet to miss a game since 2013 due to injury (but has suffered a few that he played through)
- Has experience with Colts OL coach Chris Strausser (OL coach for all 4 years during his time at Boise State in college)
- 1x Pro Bowler
- More Inconsistent year to year, his 2019 performance was really bad
- Has allowed 5 or more sacks in 4 out of the last 6 years
- Is less technically refined
- Gets caught in holds more frequently because of that, especially at inopportune times
Who to choose?
There is a case for both to be made. Fisher has been more consistent and performed at a slightly higher level than Leno throughout their careers. However, there are risks with Fisher in terms of durability and early to mid-season availability (which would force one of Tevi, Davenport, or Fries to start until he’s healthy). Leno is the more durable, younger, and less risky of the two, but his inconsistencies are notable, and his technique needs more work to clean up. Both are valid upgrades over the Colts’ current starting options. Honestly, I wish the Colts would sign both and make a roster cut to accommodate them. However, that is unlikely as both will have other suitors and will want to have a starting spot. There are also potential financial concerns if they sign either or both to a multi-year deal. Barring the more unlikely “both” option, Leno makes more sense in terms of availability, durability, and familiarity with the coaching staff. Fisher makes sense if they want to go for a bigger potential signing, but the medical check will be very crucial in that evaluation. Either way, I would be ecstatic that a vital position will be addressed. Either would allow the Colts to maintain a top 10 OL unit.