There might not be a better landing spot for one of the many quarterbacks in limbo this off-season than the Indianapolis Colts. Boasting one of the best defenses in football last season, Indy finished 11-5, missing out on the AFC South title on a tiebreaker and heading to the postseason as a wild card. There, Philip Rivers and the offense nearly pulled the upset over Buffalo, who wound up running all the way to the AFC Championship Game.
As you may have heard, or deduced from the first line of this story, Rivers won’t be returning for the 2021-22 season, retiring from the NFL after 17 seasons. With that, the Colts are looking for a new quarterback. There are so many different routes Indy can go here, whether it’s exploring trades, signing a free-agent or drafting one of the many young talents available this spring. Let’s look into four different options for the Colts.
This one could make the most sense. Wentz is an established pro, and considering he’s coming off a down season, the Eagles are desperate to get him off their hands and the price shouldn’t be super high here. In fact, looking at the haul that the Lions received for taking on Jared Goff’s ugly contract, the Colts might be inclined to take a chance here.
Indianapolis is a natural fit for Wentz’s $34.7 million cap hit in 2021 with the second-most space under the cap at a number north of $78 million. Adding Wentz to an already-strong offense which includes many playmakers at skill positions like Jonathan Taylor, Michael Pittman Jr. and Nyheim Hines could be lethal, and the draft picks could ensure Indianapolis can continue to add talent without spending much money, with a lot of it being devoted to paying Wentz.
There’s also the fact that Colts head coach Frank Reich was Wentz’s offensive coordinator for two seasons in Philly, and receivers coach Mike Groh was Wentz’s offensive coordinator in 2018 and 2019 when Reich departed. This would be a perfect spot for a reclamation project, and the Colts would have all the incentives in the world to take on Wentz with the picks that surely would be attached.
Indy doesn’t have the best draft capital to work with here, with picks 21 and 54 the most attractive chips to offer teams picking in the top 10, in addition to future firsts. Trevor Lawrence is off the table, and it doesn’t seem likely that Indianapolis would have the assets to trade up to No. 2 or No. 4 and grab Zach Wilson or Justin Fields. That would leave Lance as the only candidate to trade up for, perhaps at No. 7 now that the Lions won’t need to take a quarterback. The North Dakota State QB might be the next Carson Wentz, and while he’d come at a significantly lower cost, the Colts would be shipping out draft picks in this scenario rather than collecting them.
Jacob Eason or Jacoby Brissett
Speaking of the draft, the Colts just spent a fourth-round pick on Eason last year and could opt to give the Washington product a chance to start now that he’s had a year to learn the system. After transferring over from Georgia, the one-time five-star recruit and top QB in the nation threw for 3,132 yards and 23 TDs for the Huskies in 2019, against just eight picks.
Another guy who knows the system is Brissett, who is a free agent but could be brought back on the cheap. He was featured plenty by the Colts last season, mainly coming in for quarterback sneaks or goal line situations.
The Jets are said to have several offers already on the table for Darnold, who is expected to command a first-round pick. Considering their draft position at No. 2, New York could do a lot worse than picking either Wilson or Fields and then stacking the 21st pick on top of the 23rd. It could also give them the option of packaging both together to move up for a wide receiver or tackle.
And, while the Colts should have enough to win the Darnold “sweepstakes,” if you want to call it that, they should have plenty of interest as well. Darnold, still just 23, would have the protection and weapons he hasn’t had in New York. He’s still on his rookie deal, so this one-year flier would afford the Colts the chance to see if they can steal away a franchise quarterback for next-to-nothing (as far as franchise QBs go). Reich also has a positive reputation for working with quarterbacks, and with the arm talent Darnold possesses he could turn into something special in Indy.