Colts add to offensive line depth by signing Julién Davenport, bringing back Joey Hunt
INDIANAPOLIS — The Colts are still on the hunt for veteran depth on the offensive line.
Indianapolis brought back interior offensive lineman Joey Hunt on Monday and also signed former Texans and Dolphins offensive tackle Julién Davenport, adding another young tackle with starting experience as insurance as Indianapolis searches for Anthony Castonzo’s replacement at left tackle.
Davenport, still only 26, is the second young tackle Indianapolis has signed this offseason. The Colts brought in former Chargers offensive tackle Sam Tevi last week, and it’s likely that Davenport is competition for both Tevi and returning veteran Will Holden for a roster spot at tackle.
Hunt, 27, also has starting experience with Seattle, although he spent most of the 2021 season on the Indianapolis practice squad. Brought in because he can play guard and center, Hunt was elevated to the active roster for five games, and he played 10 offensive snaps at left guard against the Raiders while Quenton Nelson shifted out to left tackle for a spell.
Depth on the offensive line has been a priority for the Colts this offseason. A rash of injuries cost the Colts Castonzo, former swing tackle Le’Raven Clark and Holden late in the year, leaving Indianapolis scrambling for a left tackle heading into the playoffs, and Colts general manager Chris Ballard wanted to address both the starting lineup and depth this offseason.
“When we started having all the injuries on the o-line, we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared for it,” Ballard said in January. “I’m obsessed with depth.”
The NFL Network reported the news first.
And one of the best ways to build depth is to bring in a bunch of experienced players and let them battle it out for spots on the depth chart. The presence of Hunt last season allowed fifth-round rookie Danny Pinter, the team’s top interior backup, to focus on the center position and step in for Kelly against Tennessee.
Indianapolis didn't have quite as much luck at tackle with Chaz Green, an older veteran who struggled when he was forced to go into the lineup, particularly at left tackle, and part of the reason the Colts are on the hunt for young, experienced tackles is an effort to avoid those issues.
Davenport, a fourth-round pick by the Texans out of Bucknell in 2017, served as a starter on the left side in Houston in 2018, then was sent to Miami in the Laremy Tunsil trade and started eight games in 2019, although he spent the 2020 season as a backup and made just one spot start.
For the most part, Davenport has struggled to establish himself as a bona fide starter in the NFL, and although he has experience, he doesn’t have as much recent experience in the starting lineup as Tevi, who spent the past three seasons as a starter for the Chargers.
But the Colts have frequently had success with other team’s castoffs on the offensive line in Ballard’s tenure, identifying players like starting right guard Mark Glowinski and former centers Evan Boehm and Josh Andrews, who each played better in relief of starters in Indianapolis than they’d played in the NFL up until that point in their careers.
Ultimately, Indianapolis likely isn’t counting on either Tevi or Davenport to take over for Castonzo at left tackle.
The Colts would like to find their next left tackle at the end of April.
“The draft, that would be a direction that would be ideal,” Colts owner Jim Irsay said a couple of weeks ago. “There is always that transition process of college to pro, but it would be excellent if we could get one, I think, in the draft that we could see there for a long period of time to come.”
There has been speculation that Indianapolis might move either Nelson or right tackle Braden Smith, its two young, foundational pieces on the offensive line, to the left side to replace Castonzo, but it also sounds like the Colts are hoping they don’t have to move either player out of spots where they’ve been among the game’s best at their positions.
“We’ve got four returning pieces, and four really good returning pieces,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said on Sirius XM two weeks ago. “You start with what you know, and where we’re at, but there’s no reason to close out all those options at this point. We understand what Quenton’s mindset is, the player he is at the position he is. Same thing with Braden.”
The good news is the 2020 draft is deep at the tackle position, and even if a rookie isn't ready to go right from the start, the Colts now have a trio of experienced options on the roster to give themselves flexibility.