The Indianapolis Colts had a clear goal in the 2018 NFL Draft: get better up front.
On the offensive side of the ball, the team used two of its first three picks — and two of the first 37 picks in the entire draft — to bolster the interior of its offensive line, selecting All-American guards Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith.
On Wednesday, the Colts continued to chip away at that very same approach.
The team announced the signing of veteran free agent tackle Austin Howard. In a corresponding move, the Colts waived guard Isaiah Williams.
Howard, 31, provides 92 games — and 88 starts — worth of NFL experience to the Indianapolis offensive front. A Northern Iowa product, he went undrafted back in 2010 but has since played with the Philadelphia Eagles (2010), New York Jets (2011-13), Oakland Raiders (2014-16) and, most recently, with the Baltimore Ravens, where he started all 16 games at right tackle in 2017.
In 2016, Howard was a key part of a Raiders offensive line that allowed a league-low 18 sacks.
With the team announcing the signing of Howard, the wide open right tackle spot continues to see more competition. With the addition of Howard, those vying for the starting role also include Joe Haeg, Denzelle Good and Le’Raven Clark.
Williams was on and off of the Colts’ practice squad throughout the 2017 season but with veteran depth coming in, it seems the Colts brass felt he was the piece to move.
In Howard, the Colts are getting an 8-year vet who has 88 career starts (92 career games played). Howard was Baltimore’s starting right tackle for all 16 games last season.
Howard, who is 6-7 and 330 pounds, has bounced around 4 NFL teams since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
While Howard also has experience at right guard and left tackle, the right tackle position is where he has played the vast majority of his snaps.
And right tackle is also the biggest position of need for the Colts’ current line situation.
With drafting Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith, the Colts appear to have found their two starters at guard for 2018, and beyond.
Given Howard’s experience, he’s probably the early favorite to start at right tackle for the Colts this season. At 31 years old, Howard can't be viewed as a long-term fix at right tackle.