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Passing Plan: Examining Colts 2020 QB Options

NCAA Football: Utah State at Wake Forest Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

It has been a rough past few weeks for the Colts organization.

After two straight losses, the chances of a playoff spot are all but non-existent, and many fans are already looking to 2020 as a result.

Let’s take a look at 9 potential QB choices for Indy next season - examining whether or not they’re realistic options.

Option 1: Keep things the same

I have a feeling many fans would riot if the Colts came into 2020 with the same QB depth chart. Ultimately, it would be hard to blame them.

After a few solid weeks to start the year, Jacoby Brissett has regressed and has proven that he’s nothing more than a stopgap option at the signal-caller position. His slow trigger, lack of anticipation, and horrific deep ball passing limit him to a game manager and nothing more, which isn’t exactly ideal for a team that wants to compete for a Super Bowl.

Chris Ballard and this new regime won’t needlessly rush things, however, which means that if the right QB isn’t there - Brissett can likely hold down the fort for a year or two. It wouldn’t be ideal, but it’d also be a whole lot better than reaching for a QB you aren’t in love with.

Verdict: Depending on how the team closes out the season, this may be the route Ballard and company decide to take. I think we’ve seen enough, however, to suggest the Colts will look at alternative options heading into 2020.

Probability: 10%

Option 2: Draft a QB early

The most popular option heading into 2020, drafting a QB early is an ideal scenario for Indy. Likely picking between picks 12-18, the Colts won’t necessarily have a chance to draft an elite prospect, but this class offers several high-upside players that can be had in the teens.

Oregon’s Justin Herbert, Utah State’s Jordan Love, and Washington’s Jacob Eason are toolsy passers (albeit with some consistency issues) that could be solid selections, while Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts could be a wild-card given his fantastic athleticism and strong character.

If the Colts ended up taking a collegiate thrower, they also don’t have to throw them in the starting line-up right away. Indy could use Brissett to begin the season until the rookie feels comfortable, essentially serving as a bridge and giving the rookie some much-needed development from the sidelines.

Verdict: The Colts will likely be out of range to acquire one of the top passers in the class, but rolling into 2020 with a high-upside rookie and a veteran presence (Brissett) makes a lot of sense.

Probability: 35%

Option 3: Draft a QB late

This plan basically goes hand in hand with keeping things the same. Drafting a late-round QB is blindly throwing a dart and hoping it sticks - and that approach would suggest the team feels comfortable with Brissett as the 2020 starter.

However, it could also improve the back-up position (removing Hoyer), with players like Washington State’s Anthony Gordon, Iowa’s Nathan Stanley, or Virginia’s Bryce Perkins being able to fit that bill.

Look. Expecting a Gardner Minshew to come out of the 6th round just isn’t realistic. If Indy does take a shot on a passer during Day 3, the odds are extremely slim that player ever becomes “the guy”.

Verdict: Spending few resources on a rookie would suggest Indianapolis is content with Brissett at the helm. I believe they’ll be more aggressive in their approach and try to acquire either a more proven or more talented option.

Probability: 15%

Option 4: A small trade

If the Colts don’t like their draft options or FA options, the trade market serves as the last pathway to make a transaction.

Although a huge move isn’t in Chris Ballard’s nature, using limited resources to try and create a starting option - much like they did when they traded for Brissett - is an extremely appealing option.

One such option could be Miami’s Josh Rosen, who is just two years removed from being a highly sought after top 10 selection. Another could be Jacksonville’s Nick Foles. This wouldn’t necessarily be for Foles to actually start (or even remain on the team), but as USA Today’s Steven Ruiz suggested, Indy would take on Foles’ absurd cap hit to obtain draft picks.

The Colts have roughly 100 million dollars in cap space heading into 2020 and are unlikely to use a large portion of it. With Foles’ contract expiring before the organization needs to re-sign key pieces like Quenton Nelson, absorbing his cap makes a whole lot of sense.

Verdict: A shrewd move like acquiring a former 1st round pick for pennies on the dollar - or acquiring picks to absorb salary - would be very Ballard-esque. A low-end trade might not be splashy, but if the Colts don’t want to draft a passer in the early rounds this route is very sensible.

Probability: 12%

Option 5: A big trade

Big trades for QB’s happen once in a blue moon - except when they involve a draft prospect.

The two QB’s in this class worth mortgaging future selections for are LSU’s Joe Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, as both could easily start right away and assume the position of Indy’s franchise passer. Unfortunately, Burrow is expected to go 1st overall, while Tua - despite a recent hip surgery - is a likely top 5 pick. Projected to pick 12th to 18th, this leaves the Colts well out of range unless a massive trade-up comes to fruition.

Indy would have to offer multiple 1st round picks for teams to even discuss a trade, which means the likely outcome is Chris Ballard balks at the steep price and resorts to another option.

Verdict: Acquiring assets - not trading them away - is what Chris Ballard is known for. Unless the team loses the rest of its games, trading into the top 5 will be way too steep a price for the Colts, even if Ballard is willing to uncharacteristically part with picks.

Probability: 8%

Option 6: Praying for Luck

Look. It ain’t happening.

Verdict: Having just become a father, Andrew Luck seems content with his new life and looks to be retired from football for good.

Probability: 1%

Option 7: Sign an aging FA

On paper, passing legends like Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Philip Rivers are all about to hit the open market. None of these players, however - except maybe Rivers - would even consider moving to another team in the twilight of their careers. Hoping for any of them to don the blue and white next year is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Verdict: It’s all but assured that these players will either re-sign or retire from their current teams. If for some miraculous reason one of them hit the market, don’t expect Ballard to pony up an absurd amount of cash for a short-term option.

Probability: 3%

Option 8: Sign an upside FA

If the Colts don’t like the 2020 draft class or any trade options, signing a realistic FA target with their crater of cap space is extremely logical.

Players like Teddy Bridgewater, Marcus Mariota, and Jameis Winston have all shown flashes throughout their turbulent careers, while each can easily be signed for the right price. None are likely to become the actual long-term solution, but if Ballard and company view any passer as an upgrade (or at least equal) to Brissett - signing one and having them compete is a relatively smart plan.

Verdict: For the right price this is a very attractive option for Indianapolis. Ultimately, whether or not the front office believes any of the FA QB’s are a legitimate upgrade on Brissett will be the determining factor.

Probability: 15%

Option 9: Tank for 2021

In a dream world, every organization just tanks and ends up with the 1st pick. In reality, it’s much more complicated than that. Factors that occur throughout the season make it impossible to ensure your team will actually draft first - and assuming you can just trade up to the top selection for a top prospect like Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields is equally misguided.

Verdict: Unless Ballard can see into the future, basing your entire future around an unpredictable event more than 500 days is a horrible idea. Indianapolis may ultimately opt to wait to draft a QB until 2021, but that would be the result of striking out on alternative options, NOT because they’re holding out for a specific prospect.

Probability: 1%