By now we all know that it’s more likely than not the Pittsburgh Steelers will be without left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who is an unrestricted free agent this year for the first time in his career and is likely to command a very healthy salary, age having become far less prohibitive on the market for linemen in recent years.
The question then becomes—assuming that he wants to continue playing—where he’s going and how much he makes. It’s not hard to find teams who need a left tackle, truth be told, which is why they always make bank on the open market. But who would be the best fit at this time?
Gil Brandt thinks that could well be the Indianapolis Colts, and that makes an awful lot of sense, following the retirement of Anthony Castonzo. They recently traded for former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz following Philip Rivers’ retirement, so they better have someone to project his blindside. Brandt writes:
Facing a salary-cap mess in 2021, the Steelers probably can’t afford to keep Villanueva; among their pending free agents, Zach Banner looks like a potentially less costly replacement at left tackle. The Colts, meanwhile, are in need of a left tackle, with Anthony Castonzo retiring and former No. 2 overall pick Carson Wentz set to take over at quarterback. (Cam Robinson would also be appealing, but I expect Jacksonville to either re-sign him or retain him via the franchise tag.) Villanueva has started every game in the past six years and is solid in both the run game and pass protection. Indianapolis will no doubt be driven to protect its investment under center, and adding Villanueva would make a lot of sense.
This is not the most robust of markets for tackle-needy teams this offseason, though it is also said to be a pretty deep draft at the position, so it’s possible that some teams would make the decision to hold off on signing a pricy veteran and hoping to land a good one in the draft.
But somebody will sign him, and Indianapolis sounds as reasonable a possibility as any. For one thing, they will have plenty of salary cap space, so they will be able to pay him, which is the first requirement. For another, they are a well-built team that is capable of competing now. If they can straighten out Wentz, they are a title contender.
And keeping Wentz upright and protected is the only way to figure that out. He was clearly flustered because of the poor protection that he got last year. With Castonzo, they had one of the best offensive lines in the league ,so they won’t be wanting to take a step backward.