Offensive line remains priority as Colts add tackle Austin Howard

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Austin Howard of the Philadelphia Eagles poses for an NFL headshot on Thursday, April 29, 2010 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by NFL via Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A prime objective that drove the Indianapolis Colts through last month’s NFL draft remains operational.

After addressing its offensive line with first- and second-round draft picks for just the third time in the modern-era history of the draft (1970), the team added a veteran tackle to the mix Wednesday: Austin Howard.

A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed the transaction, which was first reported by NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo. The one-year contract reportedly is worth $3.75 million with another $500,000 available in incentives.

The 6 foot 7-inch 333-pound Howard is contrary to general manager Chris Ballard’s youth movement. He’s 31 and heading into his ninth season.

However, Howard represents additional competition – and a possible starter – at right tackle. That’s the one spot on the offensive line with the most uncertainty after Ballard selected Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson with the 6th overall pick in the draft and Auburn guard Braden Smith with one of his four second-round picks.

Pencil in Nelson as the starting left guard. Smith is expected to compete for the right guard spot with Jack Mewhort and Matt Slauson.

The other two positions are set with Anthony Castonzo at left tackle and Ryan Kelly at center.

Howard has appeared in 92 games with 88 starts while playing with the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and Baltimore Ravens. He started all 16 games at right tackle last season with the Ravens.

In 2017, Haeg started 12 games and Good four games at right tackle.

Ballard’s commitment to upgrading the Colts’ offensive line is based on the annual abuse absorbed by the team’s quarterbacks.

Andrew Luck missed last season while recovering from a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and his first five seasons in the league were marred by sacks and steady pressure. He has been sacked 156 times in his 70 regular-season starts and hit while throwing more than 400 times.

With Luck on the sidelines in ’17, backup Jacoby Brissett was sacked a league-high 52 times.

Since Luck’s arrival in 2012 as the first overall pick in the draft, the Colts have allowed a league-high 691 quarterback hits.

During a recent meeting with the local media, Ballard emphasized the importance of building a deep group of offensive linemen.

“At Kansas City we used to tell ourselves we had to have 10 going into training camp that were good, functional linemen,’’ he said. “Now, one through five were always going to be better than six through 10. But we wanted 10 guys going into training camp that we knew (were good).

“We knew how important it was for us to be good up front. We did the same thing in Chicago. We were heavy on the offensive line.’’

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