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INDIANAPOLIS – Unlike back in August, this player’s decision between football and retirement brought a smile to the face of Chris Ballard.

Anthony Castonzo has informed the Colts he wants to keep on playing football, after the veteran left tackle mulled free agency for the first month and a half of the offseason.

The Colts are now in the process of working out a new contract with Castonzo’s representation.

“Anthony has played a lot of great football and he’s been a great Colt. He’s going to continue to be a great Colt,” Ballard said on Tuesday as he met the media at his 4th NFL Combine as GM of the Colts.

“I just wanted to give him his time.”

Undeniably, Castonzo was an extremely vital free agent for the Colts to have return in 2020.

“I thought he had his best year of his career last year, very excited to have him back,” Frank Reich added on Tuesday.

“I think I heard Chris screaming and yelling from the office next door. Such good news for us. That position, I don’t take it for granted. Every week when we’re protection game planning, as an offensive play caller and game planner, you’ve got to think, ‘I don’t have to worry about chip-helping Anthony Castonzo.’ He can handle whoever it is over there one-on-one. I can’t begin to explain what an advantage that is schematically in the pass game not to have to help protect him all the time, so good to have him back.”

With Castonzo coming back, the Colts now have all 5 offensive line starters together for another year. And all 5 of those guys started every single game last year.

Now, with Castonzo turning 32 years old later in 2020, and the fact that he’s pondered retirement once, Ballard says the Colts must approach things with their veteran left tackle on a ‘year-to-year’ basis.

The Colts are not expected to use the franchise tag on Castonzo.

Once the Colts officially take care of Castonzo with his third NFL contract, there are still a couple of items to address on the offensive line this offseason.

Top reserves Joe Haeg, Le’Raven Clark and Josh Andrews are all free agents in 2020.

As the Colts and Castonzo now approach things on an annual basis, Ballard knows the importance of finding more of a long-term answer at left tackle.

“That’s a position I think you always need to look at,” Ballard said of left tackle. “From a developmental standpoint, because of the speed of the game, the changes in technique on the O-line, I think it’s better to anticipate that a year or two earlier and start to get some guys in the pipeline.

“We’ve been fortunate here because we’ve had Joe Haeg and Le’Raven (Clark). We’ve had some young guys that have been able to develop and when they’ve had to step in and play, we were able to continue to play good football up front. We definitely have to keep our eye on that.”

Solidifying the depth of the offensive line remains a key for Ballard this offseason.

“We were fortunate to have all five starters play 16 games,” Ballard said on Tuesday. “I know that’s not going to happen every year. That’s why I always talk about the 6, 7, 8 and 9 and even 10, how all of them are important.

“But getting Anthony back and having the starting five, I know him and Quenton have built quite a relationship and continuity on the same side. I think all five have built a continuity. With the O-line, it’s not always about having the five best talent but having the five guys that will play together. It’s big for us.”

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