Colts, Castonzo agree on $33 million extension

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EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – AUGUST 07: Tackle Anthony Castonzo #74 of the Indianapolis Colts looks on against the New York Jets during a preseason game at MetLife Stadium on August 7, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/Getty Images)

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – One of the NFL’s premier offensive lines returns intact for 2020.

Anthony Castonzo, the Indianapolis Colts’ starting left tackle for the last nine seasons, has agreed to a two-year, $33 million extension. He would have been an unrestricted free agent Wednesday.

While the breakdown of Castonzo’s contract isn’t known, the $16.5 million average makes him the NFL’s highest-paid left tackle in terms of per-season average. Tennessee’s Taylor Lewan had held that distinction ($16 million).

More important, the two-year extension reflects Castonzo’s desire to play at least two more seasons, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Remember, Castonzo’s return was in doubt until last month. The 2011 first-round draft pick told the media on the day after last season ended he was considering retirement “for personal reasons.

“I’ve got some thinking to do,’’ he said.

After considering his options, Castonzo informed general manager Chris Ballard last month he had decided to return for at least one more season.

“Brought a big ol’ smile to my face,’’ Ballard said.

And for good reason. Now, the Colts aren’t pressed to find a left tackle in free agency or the April 23-25 draft.

Even though he’s yet to appear in the Pro Bowl, Castonzo has established himself as one of the NFL’s top left tackles. He’s also been durable. Castonzo has appeared in 140 of a possible 152 games, including the postseason.

He was part of the Colts’ offensive line a year ago that featured the same starters for all 16 games. The last time the team managed that: 2000.

That continuity was instrumental in the Colts’ running game ranking 7th a year ago, its best finish since 2001. Marlon Mack cracked the 1,000-yard mark for the first time and the team’s 2,130 yards were its most since 1988 (2,249).

Frank Reich has been steadfast in his support of Castonzo.

“I think he had an unbelievable year and I think he’s one of the best left tackles in the league, I really do,’’ he said. “This guy’s a stud. I think he’s had the best year of his career.’’

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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