After the surprise retirement of Andrew Luck in the 2019 preseason, the Indianapolis Colts have been searching for their long-term replacement at quarterback. Since then, Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, and Philip Rivers have all started games for the Colts. Brissett has proven himself as a superb backup/stop-gap quarterback, Philip Rivers is on the brink of retirement, and Brian Hoyer should not be on an NFL roster in 2020. This upcoming off-season will give the Colts a chance to find their franchise quarterback. There are many options ranging from rookies to guys in their prime to aging veterans. So what should the Indianapolis Colts do at quarterback in 2021? Here are the top 10 options.
What Should the Indianapolis Colts Do at Quarterback in 2021?
There are three options for the Colts to improve on their quarterback situation: in-house, free agency/trades, or the NFL draft. The Colts currently have three quarterbacks on contract, but two of them are going to be free agents at the end of the season. They also have seven draft picks at their disposal. The Colts are third in the NFL in cap space with almost $65 million in 2021. Also good news for Indianapolis is they are expected to free up over $46 million in cap space next season just in quarterback salaries. Whichever route Chris Ballard and company decide to take, expect them to make at least one move in the off-season.
Quarterback Options: In-House
When Indianapolis signed Philip Rivers to a one-year contract for $25 million, many NFL experts questioned the signing as they felt he was not much of an upgrade from Jacoby Brissett who was the starter in 2019. However, Rivers has played exceptionally well by managing the game and even executing game-winning drives against the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers. His familiarity with Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni has helped him tremendously throughout the season. Through 16 weeks, Rivers has completed 68.2 percent of his passes while throwing for over 4,000 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. While Rivers is not the quarterback he used to be, his IQ for the game is still there. However, Rivers recently announced that this Sunday could be the last game of his career. His decision could be the deciding factor to what the Colts ultimately do.
Arguably the best backup quarterback in the NFL, Jacoby Brissett proved in 2019 he is not the answer the Colts are looking for. After the Colts signed him to a two-year, $30 million contract, Brissett finished his season going 7-8. He completed 60.9 percent of his passes and threw for just under 3,000 yards, 18 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Also, Brissett started in the 2017 season for the Colts because Andrew Luck missed the entire season. Brissett did not look like someone who held command of the offense. The offensive gameplan was limited. While Brissett was mobile, he was too conservative at times and lacks the arm strength for the vertical passing game. Brissett will be a free agent in 2021.
After drafting the former Washington Huskie, Jacob Eason, in the fourth round of the 2020 Draft, Colts fans viewed him as a project quarterback. Eason’s best trait is his arm strength. He was considered as the best deep-ball thrower in the 2020 Draft. However, where Eason struggles are some of the most important characteristics of a quarterback: mechanics and progressions. If a quarterback is not able to go through his progressions, he will struggle in the NFL. Unless the Colts go with another stopgap quarterback, it is unlikely Eason will be the answer.
Quarterback Options: Free Agency/Trades
*Depending on whether these players will get cut, the Colts will have to either trade or sign one of these players.*
Detroit Lions quarterback, Matthew Stafford, falls into the category of “good enough to win a Super Bowl with.” Unfortunately for him, the Lions have failed to consistently put together a roster that has led to winning. Stafford has had nagging injuries over the last four seasons. At 32 years old, he still has a lot left in the tank. However, the question will remain whether he will ever shake off the nagging injuries. Over 12 seasons, Stafford has amassed almost 45,000 passing yards, 279 touchdowns, and 143 interceptions while completing just under 63 percent of his passes. He is still on contract with the Lions for three years, $62 million. The team plans on bringing him back for 2021 but plans always change. With the Lions having a top 10 pick in 2021, they could opt to completely rebuild with a new regime.
Matt Ryan has fallen hard after his MVP season in 2016. Since then, the Atlanta Falcons have gone 28-34. While Ryan’s numbers look good on a yearly basis, he has been very inconsistent. When looking at his game logs, Ryan is either a Pro Bowl quarterback or a fringe starter. However, with the Colts strong offensive line and running game, he could find that happy medium. Similar to the Detroit Lions, the Falcons are in the midst of a new regime in 2021. It is difficult to say whether or not the Falcons bring him back for his 14th season. With three years and roughly $120 million left on his contract, Ryan would come at a hefty salary cap price. He would also enter next season at 36 years old. That would put the Colts in the same situation with Philip Rivers.
In 2017, Carson Wentz was regarded as the best young quarterback in the NFL. Inconsistent quarterback play, injuries, and backup quarterbacks have flipped that narrative quickly. He was on his way to an MVP season in his second season. However, a torn ACL ended his season. Nobody knows why Wentz has not been able to play consistently well as of late. However, the most telling bit of information is his offensive coordinator change. In 2018, former Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator, Frank Reich, signed to become the Colts head coach. The Eagles look like they are going to stick with Jalen Hurts moving forward. Wentz and his four-year, $132 million contract are now up for sale. The Colts seem like an obvious destination for the 28-year-old.
Quarterback Options: 2021 Draft
BYU Cougar quarterback, Zach Wilson, has had a stellar 2020 season. He was able to showcase his quick release and mobility in the Cougar spread offense. Wilson also displayed strong leadership characteristics which are important for a quarterback. These qualities are great fits for a Frank Reich offense. Unfortunately, Wilson had some injury concerns during his time in college. His arm strength is not the greatest, but it is enough for defenses to respect his deep ball. If the Colts are confident in Wilson’s ability to stay healthy, then he may become the next Colts quarterback for the next decade. He is expected to be a first-round pick.
If a team wants to shoot for the stars, then they should draft North Dakota State quarterback, Trey Lance. He has the ability to be a superstar in the NFL. His style of play is perfect for today’s NFL with his mobility and arm strength. Where Lance struggles is his consistency with his accuracy throwing the ball deep and giving himself up when the play is dead. He does not seem to be like a fit for Frank Reich’s offense, but offenses can always change with the right player. Lance is expected to be a mid first to late second-round pick.
Rarely do Alabama quarterbacks serve well in the NFL in the Nick Saban era. While Mac Jones dominated the SEC in 2020, his limitations in arm strength and mobility will not serve him well in the NFL. Jones is an accurate quarterback and puts the ball where it needs to be. However, Alabama is loaded with offensive talent. This may be another Alabama case where Jones was the perfect system quarterback with exceptional weapons. Jones is expected to fall in the second to third rounds.
Florida Gator quarterback, Kyle Trask, emerged during the 2020 season. As a second-year starter, he surprised many experts and fans. However, Trask lacks athleticism which is needed in the “new age quarterbacks.” His arm strength is average and he has bad lower body mechanics. Where Trask excels at is his ability to manipulate the defense with his eyes and accuracy. He was given a pro-offense in college so his transition should be easier than most of the rookie quarterbacks. With improvement in his mechanics which leads to sailing the ball too high, Trask can be a starting quarterback in the NFL. He is expected to be a mid first-round pick.
Last Word on the Indianapolis Colts Quarterback Situation in 2021
As previously stated, the Colts decision may rest on what Philip Rivers decides to do. Locker room personalities and culture goes a long way for Chris Ballard and Frank Reich. There will certainly be rumors and speculations on where Indianapolis is going with the quarterback position. After reviewing all of the potential candidates, their best options seem to be re-signing Philip Rivers to a one-year deal, trading for Carson Wentz, or drafting Zach Wilson or Kyle Trask.