Heading into the 2018 offseason the Colts appear to be in a position where they have a good deal of power. Before they arrive at the draft, they’ll have the opportunity to see Andrew Luck throw and make a determination about how his health is progressing. Assuming he is on track like they think he will be, they can prepare to build the roster using the 3rd overall pick in the draft as a great starting point. Once they have completed their business in the draft, they’ll have a projected $76 million dollars to acquire free agents with.
That 3rd spot on the board could be one that allows them to either pick a top-tier player, or to sell it to the highest bidder in what could quickly become a frenzy for quarterbacks for those teams like the Jets, Broncos, and maybe even Dolphins at pick 11 who are looking to get their pick of quarterback. This could present the Colts with a great draft haul and the chance to propel the franchise another big step forward.
However, that is not this team’s only asset. Quarterback Jacoby Brissett started all but one game for the Colts this season. While his performance did not exactly light the world on fire, he showed some pretty clear indications that he has talent. His tendency to hold the ball was frustrating for Colts fans but provided more imaginative play calling and some work on his touch passes, Brissett could easily be starting over the guys in place on many other NFL rosters. With continued development, there is plenty of reason to think he could be a top 20 quarterback in the league. That would be a win for a lot of teams who will be looking.
The question is not whether there would be any interest in Brissett. His play this season was good enough given his circumstances to warrant some attention from other teams. The question would be, what is he worth? That is a tougher question to answer given that franchise quarterbacks are not routinely traded.
Fortunately, we have a very good measuring stick to use based off of Brissett’s former teammate, Jimmy Garappolo. I want to clarify that I am not suggesting these two are equal. Based on his finish to the season, Garappolo looks to have been a good get for the 49ers, and reason for them to be excited going forward. That is in no small part due to excellent play calling by Kyle Shanahan which has given Garappolo wide open windows to throw into. It is also widely believed that the 2nd round pick that was sent to the Patriots in exchange for Garappolo was a steal for the 49ers. Personally, I think given that kind of creative play calling, Brissett could have a similar kind of success.
So if Garappolo was a steal for a second round pick, it is fair to say that the same kind of value could be placed on Brissett, whose year of starting provides a better picture of his abilities. The next question that has to be asked then, is whether there are teams who might be likely candidates for a trade.
In a draft where there are 4 quarterbacks who could likely to go in the first round, it might seem like the Colts would have trouble finding a partner who is interested in a trade. The Browns and Giants will certainly have the opportunity to select the quarterback of their choice. Which means that by the Colts’ pick at 3, there may only be 2 quarterbacks left who teams feel can be viable franchise quarterbacks.
If the Broncos and Jets panic and draft the other two, we could have all the top level quarterback talent off the board by as early as pick number 6. I am not speculating that will happen, but if you have watched the draft unfold in the past, you know that a run on the league’s most valuable position is well within the realm of possibility.
That leaves teams in the middle to late part of the round without a viable answer for their serious need at the position. Possibly the most ideal candidate from a need standpoint would be the Arizona Cardinals. They pick at 15 and have just had their franchise quarterback Carson Palmer call it a career. They have a championship caliber defense and a standout running back in David Johnson who will return from injury next year. They could bring in Brissett, who fits the bill of a young talent with significant NFL experience to lead the franchise forward.
Another team that might fit that bill would be the L.A. Chargers. With Philip Rivers likely nearing the end of his career, the Chargers will be looking to put a player in place who can succeed him. The Chargers are a frisky team that many teams who made it in are likely glad to see miss the playoffs. Like the Cardinals, they have a talented running back in Melvin Gordon. They also have the makings of a very good defense to build on. Brissett would match up well with Anthony Lynn’s ground and pound philosophy, where he could let the running game open up opportunities for Brissett to air out the ball on play action, which he does very well. They pick at 17 and so could also be out of the mix for a top quarterback talent in the draft.
Even the Steelers could be a potential trade partner if Ben Roethlisberger were to retire after this season, as he has hinted he might. If that were the case, there isn’t a better fit anywhere than with the Steelers, where Brissett might be the closest thing to what they have now in Big Ben. Given serious weapons and a wide open Super Bowl window, this would make a ton of sense for all parties involved. If Ben decides he is done after this season that should be the first call Chris Ballard makes.
The final question that needs answering is this: should the Colts really consider trading a quality backup quarterback? The answer is absolutely. Brissett has just two years left on his rookie contract. His play means he’ll want a decent pay raise and a chance to start, which means the Colts will be unlikely to keep him around beyond that time. While he could be a very good piece on a team with more surrounding talent and a solid offensive mind, he will not beat out Luck for the starting role, and he is not talented enough to make this team a contender on his own.
In reality, if Luck is not back, this roster is still not good enough to be a playoff contender. It is at least a few years away from the place where it could do so without outstanding quarterback play. That means that having a very good backup quarterback ultimately doesn’t matter.
Given that information, the smart move is to take advantage of the opportunity to flip Brissett for a 2nd rounder or better and draft a player that can bolster this developing young team. If Ballard plays his cards right this offseason, 2018 will be a good year to be a Colts fan.