The Indianapolis Colts have a big offseason ahead of them that could involve some franchise altering decisions. Andrew Luck’s surprising retirement revealed that there were still quite a few roster holes he was covering over, and Jacoby Brissett was not able to do that for the team.
Between Brissett’s own struggles and the decimation of the Colts’ pass catchers by injury, it was a very down year for the offense, despite Marlon Mack and the offensive line having their best year yet on the ground. Those factors put the offense front and center as an area that needs to be addressed this offseason.
The good news is that the draft should offer ample opportunities to upgrade the receiver room, as this is a very deep and talented class of receivers. The question is, should the Colts address the quarterback position in the draft, or would they be wise to look at a free agent alternative and kick the can down the road another season while bolstering other positions?
First, let’s look at some of the veterans who are likely to become free agents this offseason. Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill, and Jameis Winston are all set to hit free agency this offseason and each would offer unique contributions to the Colts.
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of addressing the quarterback position in this way.
It is expensive
While the Colts have plenty of cap space, they aren’t about to throw their intentional and value-focused approach to the wind to pay big money to free agents and damage the team’s ability to re-sign their own players in the future. If they sign a player it would have to be someone who would give the team great value and who they really believed in.
It won’t help that the Colts currently have two quarterbacks signed and $29M in guaranteed money already on the table at the position. Signing a player like Rivers, Brees, or Brady would almost certainly mean doubling that money, which would push their positional spending to nearly a quarter of their cap usage. That just seems unlikely with this front office, and just isn’t all that smart in most cases. It is possible that they would look to move Jacoby Brissett in the event of a move like this, but whether there would be a market for him or not is a major unknown.
The Colts aren’t far off
Despite what you’ll read about this team being far from a contender, that just isn’t accurate. First, in the purest sense, if you can make the playoffs, you are a contender to win it all. It is always unlikely that a team will win the Super Bowl, no matter how good they are. However, it remains true that if you can get to the playoffs you are a contender to potentially do so.
While the Colts fell asleep at the wheel over the back half of the season, they were very much in the mix for a playoff spot until late in the season. While there are many places that need upgrades on this roster, they are a good team overall.
An upgrade at the quarterback position and a healthier year overall would almost certainly place the Colts in a position to contend for the division title and more. This is a team that has solid protection up front, a good running game, and a young and fast defense that is steadily improving.
With additions to the wide receiver and tight end positions, this is a team that might be one of the most balanced in the league in 2020, assuming they can address their quarterback position.
For that reason, adding a player like Drew Brees or Philip Rivers might just be enough to put them over the edge and make them a contender. Frank Reich’s offense doesn’t demand a player with ridiculous arm strength, so even though both have seen decline in terms of what they can do vertically with the ball, they would offer significant upgrades in the short term over Brissett in terms of working inside the confines of the current offensive attack.
A move to a free agent quarterback would also free the team up to use their first pick on a game changer at defensive tackle or perhaps wide receiver. Either move would make the team even better while also offering an upgrade at quarterback.
It is a short-term solution
The reality is that if the Colts spend the money to address the quarterback position in free agency, it still leaves them with a solution offers a level of risk. While the established veteran quarterbacks certainly have the experience and on-field acumen the Colts want at the position, a change in in offensive system as well as a drop in physical skills could absolutely make them a complete bust, and an expensive one.
What’s more, even as a best case scenario, a player like Drew Brees or Philip Rivers only offers a couple years of play, which means the need is still there to draft a future replacement. So do you bring in a rookie quarterback and a veteran? If so, what do you do with Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer who are both under contract?
If the Colts look at this draft class and don’t see a quarterback in it that they like, it might make sense to investigate a veteran option. But we can have no illusions that doing so provides them anything more than a very short-term stopgap.
It would provide a very young team with valuable leadership
While this is a team that is being very carefully built with high-character players who are leaders in their own right, it is first a foremost, a young team. There are currently just 4 players who are signed and on the Colts roster who are 30 years old or older. That leaves room for a big presence in terms of veteran leadership. A seasoned veteran at quarterback could certainly bring that element to a young team that has a lot to learn yet.
Chris Ballard spoke in his end-of-the-year press conference about how the team missed that down the stretch, and adding a veteran quarterback would give them a player with the experience and understanding of the game to really anchor this young team and help them make it through tough stretches in the season.
The Colts are in a bit of a bind. If they pursue a quarterback in free agency, it will be risky and costly. They don’t have great options for offloading their current quarterbacks, and whatever they do in free agency at the position, they’ll need to consider drafting a quarterback who can be the future there.
With those factors in place, it seems like the right move is to draft a young quarterback and let them compete with Jacoby Brissett for the starting role. Brissett had many struggles and hasn’t shown the ability to grow as a passer that the Colts need out of a starter, but he is certainly capable enough to work as an interim quarterback while a rookie gets his bearings and learns the offense.
What do you think?