Earlier today, NFL Media's Mike Silver reported that the Colts will move on from backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, opting not to re-sign him. It's unclear whether the veteran will continue playing elsewhere, but it sounds like it won't be in Indianapolis.
So the question then becomes this: is that the right move? There are reasons for both sides of the argument, as some suggest that the Colts should have kept the veteran while others suggest that the Colts are absolutely making the right move.
On the one hand, it makes little sense to let the quarterback who just started eight games and went 5-3 walk, as Hasselbeck helped keep the Colts in the playoff race after giving the team everything, fighting through various injuries. When you look at Hasselbeck's performance from last year, you can't really ask for much more from a backup quarterback, particularly in a long-term starter role like he was asked to fill. Just this week, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson took a veiled shot at the Cowboys, pointing out that Dallas has a better offensive line yet is picking very high in the draft after having to play long-term with a backup quarterback. The Colts aren't in that situation, as Grigson happily pointed out, and a big reason for that is Matt Hasselbeck.
The backup put up solid numbers for the Colts last year in eight games as a starter, completing 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. During the four starts in which he was healthy (he was injured in the Steelers game and things just got worse from there), he completed 64.7% of his passes for 1,023 yards (6.8 yards per attempt), seven touchdowns, and two interceptions for a passer rating of 94.4. Without a doubt, he did more than could have realistically been expected from him stepping in to the starting role. Add to that the fact that he has been a mentor, friend, and confidant for Andrew Luck for the past three years, a leader in the locker room, and a very respected player among both players and coaches and there's a reasonable case to be made that the Colts should have brought him back if he wanted to keep playing.
At the same time, however, there's also a reasonable case to be made that the Colts should move on from him. The offense wasn't particularly effective while he was playing, and things got worse in the final month of the season as the veteran struggled with injuries. Hasselbeck will turn 41 years old before the first month of the 2016 season is over, and we saw last year that he got very beat up physically as the year went on. Hasselbeck gave the Colts everything he had in 2015, and there could be a case made that he's given the Colts everything he can. In the regular season finale, Josh Freeman showed enough potential to intrigue fans and the team, and he's under contract for 2016 - as is Stephen Morris. Both Freeman and Morris would be cheaper and younger options as the backup to Andrew Luck. That right there could be one of the biggest factors in moving on from Hasselbeck: he's more expensive than the other options. It's very likely that the Colts would have been ok with having either Hasselbeck or Freeman (or perhaps Morris) as their backup, enough so that they opted to go with the cheaper option. In each of the past three years with the Colts, Hasselbeck has had a cap hit of at least $3 million. Josh Freeman is under contract in 2016 for just a $760,000 cap hit, according to Spotrac. Even if Hasselbeck were to come cheaper than in recent years, he still would have cost the Colts more than Josh Freeman, and with Andrew Luck's mega-extension likely coming this offseason, saving every penny possible elsewhere at the quarterback position helps.
As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I think this is the type of move in which neither option is a bad decision. If the Colts decided to bring Hasselbeck back, I wouldn't have thought it to be a bad decision, and if the Colts decided to move on from him, I wouldn't have thought that to be a bad decision either. As outlined above, there is a case to be made for both sides. Ultimately, however, it appears the Colts are moving on from Hasselbeck for two main reasons: they like Josh Freeman, and more importantly, they are going with the younger, cheaper option. We know that if Andrew Luck goes down the Colts are in trouble anyway, but it's still important to have a good option behind him just in case. That's what the Colts had in 2015 in Matt Hasselbeck, and they hope that Josh Freeman can be that as well. We'll see whether he can be, but you can't really fault the Colts for saving money and getting younger as they move on from Hasselbeck. He was a crucial part of the Colts' 8-8 record in 2015, but it's not a bad decision to move on from him this offseason. Rather, it's just business in the NFL.