In a surprise move, the Chicago Bears will reportedly release starting offensive tackle Charles Leno—which begs the question of whether the left tackle needy Indianapolis Colts should be interested:
Being released after the draft normally puts veterans in a tough spot to find work, but LT Charles Leno should have suitors.
He’s started every game over the past 5 seasons and is just 29 years old.
The Colts, Panthers and Steelers are all teams with possible LT needs.
— Field Yates (@FieldYates) May 3, 2021
Charles Leno Jr. showed well in both PFF grade and run block win rate last season. As others have done, I’ll go ahead and connect the dot with the Colts as a logical starting LT.
— Mike Clay (@MikeClayNFL) May 3, 2021
Originally a 2014 7th round pick of the Bears, the 6’3”, 316 pound offensive tackle—with 34 3/8” arms has made 94 career starts at left tackle over the past 7 seasons.
That’s 6,074 total snaps blocking along the blindside.
Leno has been a solid starter for the Bears—having made a Pro Bowl appearance in 2018.
Per PFF (subscription), Leno was their 28th best graded tackle overall this past season with a +74.9 overall grade.
In pass protection, he allowed 5 sacks and 42 total QB pressures in 694 total pass block snaps during 2020—while committing 6 penalties collectively in all 16 starts.
Regarding Indianapolis, the interesting fit for Leno beyond that he’s still pretty young at 29 years old and is presumably fully healthy (unlike say, free agent Eric Fisher coming off a torn Achilles) is that he played under Colts’ offensive line coach Chris Strausser at Boise State (2010-13), who was also Leno’s offensive line coach for the Broncos.
Strausser already has great familiarity with Leno and assuming the two had a positive working relationship, this seems like an ideal pairing for the Colts.
While the Colts left this past weekend’s NFL Draft empty-handed as it relates to starting caliber offensive tackles, general manager Chris Ballard cautioned that the team still has the remaining offseason to address a few positions.
Even though there are a number of big name veteran offensive tackles still team-less—although that could change soon with the NFL draft compensatory pick period over, Leno makes the most sense for the Colts given his age, talent, health, and prior familiarity with Indy.