Free agency begins in less than a month, and before the new league year starts the Colts will have several decisions to make on their own players. There are a number of Cotls who are set to become free agents, and the team will likely try to keep a handful of them. Over the next few weeks, we'll be looking a lot at those decisions the Colts have to make, and we start today with the backup quarterback position.
Veteran Matt Hasselbeck has filled the role for the past three seasons, serving as the mentor to Andrew Luck. He sits 22nd on the NFL's all-time passing yards list, is a three-time Pro Bowler, and helped lead the Seattle Seahawks to the Super Bowl in 2005, but the 40-year old quarterback is nearing the end of his career. With that said, however, Hasselbeck recently told ESPN710 in Seattle that he is "strongly leaning toward" playing an 18th season and returning in 2016.
In 2015, Hasselbeck proved that he could still play and serve as a reliable backup in the NFL. He was thrust into action because of Andrew Luck's injuries and started eight games (more than any other Colts quarterback last year), helping keep the Colts alive in the playoff race until the very last week as he went 5-3 as a starter. He completed 156 of 256 passes (60.9%) for 1,690 yards (6.6 yards per attempt), nine touchdowns, and five interceptions for a passer rating of 84.0, and he did everything you could have asked for from a backup in his situation. As the season wore on, however, Hasselbeck wore down and was very banged up by season's end. The injuries started with the Steelers game in week 13 and never really got better the rest of the way as he dealt with shoulder, back, neck, and jaw injuries - along with the normal wear and tear on a 40-year old body in the NFL. He didn't play in the regular season finale because of the injuries, and it was very clear that the quarterback was very beat up.
Of all the free agent decisions that the Colts have to make regarding their own players, the decision on Matt Hasselbeck could prove to be one of the more difficult ones. He has been a great sounding board for Andrew Luck over the past three years, is a close friend of Luck's, and is a leader on the team. He earned his pay and then some in 2015, stepping in and starting eight games and keeping the Colts alive - and Chuck Pagano has publicly noted his gratitude to the quarterback for doing so. At the same time, however, he'll turn 41 in the first month of the regular season (on September 25), took a major beating last year and suffered a number of injuries. Additionally, the Colts have Josh Freeman and Stephen Morris under contract for 2016, meaning that they could very well choose to go a different direction at the backup quarterback spot - getting both cheaper and younger. Both Freeman and Morris are intriguing prospects for the backup role and could have a nice competition in training camp, though perhaps their hopes of making the roster rest on the Colts' decision with Hasselbeck. Some team will surely take the veteran quarterback as a backup option after considering what he did in 2015, but the Colts may be inclined toward moving on to younger and cheaper options behind Luck.