Following Anthony Castonzo's retirement earlier this year, the Colts' brain trust put everything on the table to address the team's need at left tackle.
There was one option, though, the Colts had to consider but didn't want to explore: Move Quenton Nelson from left guard to left tackle.
"That was not an option that we wanted to have to do right from the very start as Chris (Ballard) and I and the staff talked about it," coach Frank Reich said. "It was a legitimate option, but you got a guy who's one of the best left guards in the game. Maybe he'll end up being one of the best ever.
"But talk about sticking your neck out — that would be sticking your neck out, moving one of the best at his position and taking him off that position. So we did want to do everything we could do to keep him at left guard. We were keeping the option open to put him out there but we knew we were going to work pretty hard against that."
Ultimately, of course, the Colts signed two tackles with starting experience in the early part of free agency — Sam Tevi and Julie'n Davenport — and then added longtime Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher last week. Nelson will not move off the position where he became only the fifth player in the last 50 years to be named a first-team AP All-Pro in each of his first three seasons in the NFL.
But Nelson would've been willing to make that switch had the Colts asked him to do it.
"I definitely wanted to stay at left guard but I was going to do whatever the team required me to do," Nelson said. "Just gotta do what's required and help the team in any way possible to win games. If that had me at left tackle or had me at left guard, I was going to do it."
Keeping Nelson at left guard means the Colts will maintain an important level of continuity along their line, from Nelson to center Ryan Kelly to right guard Mark Glowinski to right tackle Braden Smith. That group, plus Castanzo, has been among the NFL's best O-line units over the last few years.
"I saw through college and all the way growing up, when you move guys around people think you can just take pieces of the puzzle and put them back together, but it's a little more complicated than that," Kelly said. "I'm excited, I think everybody's excited to stay where they are and having an addition like (Fisher) to come in there to push the room, (he's played in) lot of big games, a Super Bowl and all that so it's awesome, we're excited."
Fisher was with his new teammates on Monday at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center and Kelly said he was engaged and asking questions. The 30-year-old and former No. 1 overall pick needs to recover from the torn Achilles' he suffered in January before he can get back on the field, but it's clear members of the Colts' line are excited to team up with him in 2021.
"I was really happy with getting Fish," Nelson said. "He's a great guy, just meeting him a couple times before this and meeting him today. He's smart, he's a good player, he's been in a good system with the Chiefs and really excited already from talks with him to get to work with him and build that chemistry up."
So from landing Fisher to keeping Nelson at left guard, the Colts feel like things worked out the way they were supposed to in the face of a difficult challenge to replace Castonzo.
"I just give Chris a lot of credit for it," Reich said. "In typical Ballard fashion, (he) was very patient and looked at all the options, had multiple plans, Plan A, Plan B, backup plans and it ended up playing out the way Chris originally envisioned it working out, and patience was a good thing."
Get your first look at the Indianapolis Colts 2021 offense as they take the field for day one of OTAs.