Colts trade up for versatile OL Goncalves in Round 3

Apr. 27—INDIANAPOLIS — Matt Goncalves had a sense he might be headed to the Indianapolis Colts on Friday night.

The former Pittsburgh offensive lineman missed all but three games last season after undergoing toe surgery but made a strong impression during interviews with teams at the East-West Shrine Bowl.

That coupled with strong tape from his other 35 games with the Panthers and position versatility convinced Indianapolis to trade up to the 79th overall pick in the third round and select Goncalves.

"I've had a lot of conversation with the offensive line coach (Tony Sparano Jr.) and how much he loves my game and how much he thinks I could fit in with the Indianapolis Colts," Goncalves said. "Just those conversations alone kind of gave me some confidence of what teams I can go to, and wearing this blue hat right now — I had a vision of it."

The Colts had a strong bounce back season on the offensive line anchored by tackles Bernhard Raimann and Braden Smith, guards Quenton Nelson and Matt Fries and center Ryan Kelly.

There's no clear spot for Goncalves to start in 2024, but Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard believes he could still make a significant impact on the roster.

"You can never have enough good linemen," Ballard said. "I think he'll come in and he'll compete. He'll compete and put some heat on guys. I think guys get better when there's great competition. We have some really good players up front, but he just adds to the group."

The question becomes where that competition will occur.

Goncalves made 13 starts at right tackle and 11 starts at left tackle for Pitt. He also made some brief appearances at guard as a redshirt freshman in 2020.

Ballard did not rule out a role for Goncalves at tackle but suggested his future might be at guard or even center.

The most likely role as a rookie could be as a utility man, backing up all three interior spots and perhaps truly competing for a starting role in 2025.

"I can play all over," Goncalves said. "I've played left tackle. I've played right tackle. I've played guard. So the expectation is kind of wherever the team needs me to go. If I need to play right tackle or a guard, I can jump in there or do one or the other. I've had talks of playing guard, but I've also had talks of playing tackle. So you never know."

There are those who believe Goncalves could have been selected a full round earlier had he played a full senior season without the toe injury.

He said the foot is back to 100%, and he was able to compete during the Panthers' Pro Day.

The Colts showed their faith both in Goncalves' health and talent by dealing a sixth-round pick to the Arizona Cardinals to move up three spots and select him.

"Just the fact that they can trade up to go get me, it meant absolutely the world to me," Goncalves said. "Just getting that call, it was a dream come true. But I've had talks with the Colts ... and it's been good conversations. So a little bit of a surprise to me, but this morning I kind of envisioned me wearing a Colts hat, and my dreams came true.

"So I'm very happy with where I ended up and the trades that got me up to there, and I'm going to take every advantage of it. They won't regret this pick. I promise you."