INDIANAPOLIS — Anthony Castonzo, who spent 10 seasons as the Indianapolis Colts' starting left tackle, announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday. What did he have to say to reporters about his decision? And what's next at the left tackle position for the Colts?
You can catch that entire interview with Castonzo above, but here are some top takeaways:
» After mulling retirement for the better part of a year, Castonzo just knew it was time to step away at the conclusion of the 2020 season: About this time last year, Castonzo, who was going to be a pending free agent, met with Colts general manager Chris Ballard and head coach Frank Reich and told them he was considering just two decisions moving forward: sign another deal with the Colts, or retire. Ultimately, Castonzo signed a two-year deal to return to Indy.
Castonzo would end up having a solid 10th NFL season in 2020, but it was also a frustrating one at times due to some unforeseen injuries. He played in 12 games this past season, mostly missing time due to a sprained MCL and then an ankle injury suffered in practice late in the year that ended up requiring surgery.
Throughout the course of the season, the 32-year-old Castonzo said he still enjoyed that NFL grind, but he also started talking with former teammates and close friends who had retired before him — guys like quarterback Andrew Luck and offensive lineman Jack Mewhort — and came to the realization that he was likely going to be hanging up the cleats relatively soon. He officially made his decision this week.
"It's hard to explain. It's kind of one of those things when you know, you know," Castonzo said when asked how he came to his decision to retire. "I waited to make the decision finally until after the season here. But I contemplated it last year, I've kind of been thinking about it and trying to evaluate things. It just seemed that it was the right time and after doing it, I am very pleased with my decision. I feel good about it."
» Castonzo can walk away from the game of football with absolutely no regrets: Castonzo has been one of the NFL's more sturdy left tackles since entering the league as the Colts' first-round (22nd-overall) pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Since that time, Castonzo has started all 144 regular games in which he has appeared in Indy, and he also started in eight postseason contests for the Colts, getting as far as the AFC Championship Game in the 2014 season.
Since entering the NFL, Castonzo's 9,671 regular season offensive snaps are the second-most along all NFL tackles, trailing only Andrew Whitworth (9,760). Over that time, Castonzo earned a very respectable 87.3 offensive grade from Pro Football Focus; his pass-blocking grade was 83.9, while his run-blocking grade was 79.1.
Castonzo also seemed to improve with each passing season. In 2019, in fact, Castonzo was named Second Team All-Pro by PFF and was voted a Pro Bowl alternate for the first time in his career.
The fact Castonzo was never actually voted to a Pro Bowl? It is what it is, he said today.
"I've had this conversation with my dad actually a ton. He's like, 'You should be in the Pro Bowl. You should be in the Pro Bowl.' I'm like 'Dad, if I finish the season and I feel good about what I put into the season and the fact that I did everything I could to do my job, that's really all I can ask," Castonzo said. "I've become a huge believer in 'I control what I can control.' What I can control is the effort I would put in and the preparation that I would do. That's why I have no regrets is because I did everything I could do to be my best for the team. I feel really good about taking control of what I could control and doing it to the best of my ability. Pro Bowls are for other people's speculations. I know what I did and I know what I put into it and I feel really good about it."
» So what's next for the Colts at left tackle? Will Quenton Nelson move over from left guard?: Castonzo announcing his decision to retire immediately after the end of the Colts' season gives the team plenty of time to consider what it wants to do at the left tackle position moving forward.
If Ballard wants to take a tackle early in the 2021 NFL Draft, it seems as if there are some quality prospects that will be available, including Oregon's Penei Sewell, USC's Alijah Vera-Tucker, Texas' Sam Cosmi, Alabama's Alex Leatherwood or Virginia Tech's Christian Darrisaw.
The team could also explore adding a left tackle through the free agent market. Among the more notable players at the position set to become free agents this offseason: Trent Williams, Taylor Moton, Alejandro Villanueva, Russel Okung or Daryl Williams.
The Colts' internal options are a bit more limited at the moment, however. Braden Smith is one of the top young right tackles in the NFL, and doesn't seem like a candidate to switch sides. Le'Raven Clark and Chaz Green are set to become free agents this offseason.
There is Will Holden, who started for Castonzo Week 15 against the Pittsburgh Steelers before suffering his own ankle injury and missing the rest of the season, as well as three tackles who were just signed to Reserve/Future contracts: Jake Benzinger, Carter O'Donnell and Casey Tucker.
The wild card in the mix, though, could be moving three-time First-Team All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson over to left tackle. Nelson got a few in-game reps at the position this past season in the Week 14 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, and Castonzo believes Nelson could excel at left tackle if that ended up coming to fruition.
"Yeah, we've talked about it and if that's what happens, I'm going to tell you right now he's going to do a nice job," Castonzo said. "He has all the skills to do it and I think he had a lot of fun. Even before it was ever a possibility that he was playing left tackle, he would sometimes go out there on scout team and play it just – he would come up to you and be like, 'Hey, look at my set, look at my set. What do you think?' And I'm like, 'Honestly it's pretty good. Surprisingly, it's actually really good.' He knows what comes with it out there. There is a lot of space you have to deal with, there are a lot of different things.
"If that does come to fruition, I bet we'll end up having a lot of conversations about technical stuff," Castonzo continued. "It was definitely fun to see – when I went out in that Raiders game to see him go out there and do such a good job in that position. It was pretty cool."