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INDIANAPOLISIt’s not often a player getting suspended strengthens the free agency candidacy for said player.

But there’s plenty of evidence upon that happening for Grover Stewart.

The numbers, and words of the Colts, offer strong evidence that the team is still quite the fan of their big man in the middle of their defense.

Let’s start with the numbers.

Stewart’s 6-game PED suspension last season meant the Colts had to deal with life minus No. 90 for the first true time in his NFL career (Stewart had missed just 2 games in his entire 7-year career prior to the suspension).

The results of making up for Stewart’s absence?

Not good.

Take a look at the run-game numbers of the Colts with and without Stewart last season.

With Stewart (11 games): 3.7 yards per carry allowed, 324 carries for 1,191 yards

Without Stewart (6 games): 4.7 yards per carry allowed, 194 carries for 914 yards

It’s not often you see a one-player absence account for such a stark difference in the run game, but that was clear when Stewart was out.

Once Stewart returned in December, one of the Colts’ worst month-long run defense spans in years came to a halt.

While those numbers are hard to ignore, the Colts themselves also stood behind Stewart during his 6-game suspension.

Shane Steichen didn’t mince words in backing Stewart after the PED suspension was announced.

Following the season, Chris Ballard did the same.

“I think you know my feelings on Grover,” the GM, who drafted Stewart in Round 4 back in 2017, said.

“He’s done nothing but be a great Colt, a great teammate, everything you want. Yeah, Grover is a guy we’d like to have back.”

While Stewart’s age (turns 31 later this fall) might be of worry to the Colts, and other teams, injury history has hardly ever been there for him.

Outside of the 6-game suspension this past year, Stewart hasn’t missed a game since the 2018 season. He’s hardly ever missing practice time due to maintenance and injury.

Plus, like some of the other higher-level Colts free agents, there’s no younger defense tackle who appears to be waiting to handle more responsibility.

That was clearly seen in the 6-game absence of Stewart.

Now, paying Stewart major money this free agency would further increase quite the defensive tackle investment by the Colts, with DeForest Buckner still under contract through 2024.

When weighing Stewart’s free agency case, that’s probably where the only real question arises.

Is defensive tackle a position of major importance where such resources are needed?

Outside of that, the numbers and the words are calling for the Stewart/Colts marriage to continue.

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