INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Decision time looms for Anthony Castonzo, and the outcome figures to have far-reaching ramifications.
That’s because one of the two options facing the Indianapolis Colts’ veteran left tackle is retirement after nine seasons.
“It is. That’s an option. Absolutely,’’ Castonzo revealed Monday as the Colts cleaned out their locker stalls and headed into an uncertain offseason. “It’s personal reasons.
“I’ve got a lot of thinking to do,’’
After chatting with the media, Castonzo headed for exit meetings with general manager Chris Ballard and coach Frank Reich.
Castonzo has shared his thoughts with several teammates, including center Ryan Kelly and tight end Jack Doyle.
“I kinda knew,’’ Doyle said.
Added Kelly: “We’ve talked about a few things for a while. That’s a hard decision.’’
However, Reich admitted Monday’s one-on-one meeting was “the first time’’ he learned that Castonzo was considering such a weighty career move. No timeline was discussed for Castonzo’s decision, but Reich made it clear how much the team valued him.
“Just made no bones about it: ‘We want you as our left tackle. Going to respect you and your decision to think about what you want to think about. But there’s no one else we envision being our left tackle,’’’ Reich said. “I think he had an unbelievable year, and I think he’s the best left tackle in the league, I really do.
“I think the guy’s a stud player. I think he’s had the best year of his career. Just looking forward to hopefully getting him back.
“We all need a little space. It’s an emotional year.’’
Castonzo, 31, is in the final year of a four-year, $48.3 million contract extension he signed in September 2015. A new contract would undoubtedly pay him at least $12-14 million per season.
However, that’s a massive payday Castonzo might walk away from.
“I love it here, for sure,’’ he said. “It’s great. But I’ve got some decisions to make. I’ve got some thinking to do. That’s what it comes down to.
“It’s going to be a decision I make, and I’ll have to live with it.’’
Castonzo just completed his ninth season and represents something of a trivia answer. As the Colts’ 2011 first-round draft pick, he’s the last remaining link to the Bill Polian era.
More than that, Castonzo has been an anchor of the offensive line. He’s appeared in 140 of a possible 152 games, including the playoffs. He’s started all 16 games in six of his nine seasons. He’s been on the field for 100% of the offensive snaps in five seasons and handled 98% in a sixth.
Castonzo was part of an offensive line this season that started all 16 games. The last time the Colts managed that was in 2000.
If Castonzo walks away, the Colts find themselves with a massive offseason hole to fill. There is no heir apparent on the roster.
That worst-case scenario for the team would be similar to 2007 when three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Tarik Glenn, 30 at the time, suddenly retired. The 1997 first-round draft pick was 30 and had started 167 games in 10 seasons, including the postseason.
The Colts attempted to replace Glenn with Tony Ugoh, a 2007 second-round pick, but never found a suitable successor . . . until making Castonzo the 22nd overall pick in 2011.
The team holds the 13th overall pick in the April draft, and that suddenly could be targeted for a left tackle.
Castonzo admitted he needs to get separation from the season before making such a momentous decision.
“Yeah, I need to think about how different things play out,’’ he said, declining to elaborate.
If this is it, has he gotten everything he had hoped out of his career? Financially, he will have made approximately $57 million.
“No, I don’t think so,’’ Castonzo said of maxing out his career. “I don’t think I’ll ever feel that way unless I dominated every somebody every single play.’’
While teammates have been privy to the possibility of Castonzo walking away, they nonetheless would hate to see that occur.
“It would stun me,’’ T.Y. Hilton said. “How many years is this for him? Next year will be 10? This game is not easy, man. It’s tough on your body. I don’t know his case, but it’s hard to continue to keep that up.
“He’s the anchor to our team, especially the offensive line. Big Q (Quenton Nelson) looks up to him, Ryan (Kelly). He makes them go. He would be a huge loss if we lose him.
“If he’s retiring, I’m happy for him. Glad I got a chance to play with him. If not, hopefully he’s back.’’
Kelly has worked with Castonzo since joining the Colts as the 18th overall pick in 2016. He understands the stress that comes with the profession and position.
“I used to always think that 10 years would be really cool in the league,’’ Kelly said. “Then as I started playing and as my knees started hurting and everything hurts and injuries start happening . . . to get nine years is impressive. And to do it at a high level.
“Football doesn’t last. Whether he (retires) or chooses to come back, he had an incredible career no matter what.’’
Does Kelly have any insight to Castonzo’s end game?
“I do not,’’ he said with a smile. “He’s the only person that knows. I think if you ask him tomorrow you’ll get a different answer than you do today.
“But I’m sure there are people in the building that want to know one way or the other. There’s not a bunch of left tackles hanging out on the street right now.’’
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