Over the past few seasons, the Colts have had a slew of quarterbacks lining up under center, from Andrew Luck, to Jacoby Brissett, to Brian Hoyer and Philip Rivers. Heading into 2021, the Colts only have one quarterback under contract: Jacob Eason, the 4th round pick from the 2020 NFL Draft. Current starter Philip Rivers and current backup Jacoby Brissett are both set to become free agents. It means the Colts will be facing more quarterback questions this offseason. Who should be the Colts’ quarterback in 2021?
Each option’s fit and current skill level is broken down, on top of their contracts or the remaining portion of their contracts and their expected trade value (I was generous on that).
Rivers has played extremely well for the Colts over the past two months and has established himself as one of the 10-12 best quarterbacks in the league this year, even at age 39. He’s playing great football, with a low interception rate at 2% (his second lowest in his last 10 years of play), his passer rating is 9th out of all QBs who have played 10 or more games, he’s in the top 10 in terms of yards per attempt and he’s also in the top 10 in terms of completion percentage out of all starters. If Rivers were a bit younger, it would be a no brainer for the Colts to retain him for next season, but with his age and serious arm strength and mobility decline, the Colts should at least look for other options. With that being said, Tom Brady and Drew Brees are still performing in their early 40s (with less than average arm strength), so it shows that teams can still perform with older quarterbacks.
Rivers is a great leader, an all-time competitor and gets the absolute most out of his game so he is definitely one of the better options for the Colts. The Colts and Rivers had an understanding that his one year contract can be re-upped after a good season, and it’s assumed it’s for the same numbers.
Expected Contract: 1 year, 25M
Stafford has played great football for the past decade, but with poor coaching staff, poor front offices and not-so talented teams, his play has largely gone under the radar and has been overlooked by many. Stafford, at many points during the last decade, has carried his team with top 6-7 quarterback play. He is still playing amazing football, and he will only be 33 years old next season. One thing about Stafford is he is incredibly safe with the football with a very low interception rate of 2.2% or lower throughout the last several seasons. He makes the right decisions, has the arm to make all the throws (he still has one of the strongest arms in the NFL) and has demonstrated a lot of clutch play as well, sometimes against some of the best defenses in the league. He, like Rivers, possesses a great competitive attitude and plays through a lot of injuries.
There are reports that Stafford can’t handle another rebuild in Detroit, which means he could request a trade. The Colts have plenty of cap space and the draft capital required to trade for him.
Expected Trade Value: 2nd Round Pick
Expected (Remaining) Contract: 2 years, 34M (25M paid by Lions) - 14M Cap Hit (2021)
Sam Darnold has had it tough in New York. Coaching has screwed him over in his career and he hasn’t been given a strong supporting cast either; he’s essentially had to swim in an ocean without any supplies, equipment or help. The question that needs to be asked about Darnold is whether or not his ceiling is worth investing in. While Darnold has a lot of wow throws, he has just as many, if not more, ugly throws that result in turnovers. He is a very hot and cold player and if you were to trade for him, you’re investing in his highs.
The Colts have a strong support system with good coaching and a strong offensive line, plus good upstarts at receiver (plus potential draft picks or top free agents); they are set up well to improve the performance of a quarterback. Darnold will come for cheap because the Jets will try and move him when they select Trevor Lawrence first overall in the draft, making Darnold completely expendable.
Expected Trade Value: 4th Round Pick
Expected (Remaining) Contract: 1 year, 4.77M (5.02M paid by the Jets)
Wentz is a disaster, but he’s not getting any favors from his team. His coaching staff has essentially thrown him under the bus with poor communication and play-calling. He has one of the worst receiving corps in the league and they can’t stay healthy, on top of an offensive line who is completely beaten up. It’s a massive recipe for disaster. Wentz’ play has declined since the departure of Frank Reich, with this year being rock bottom. If the Colts can set him up with the right coaching staff, a strong offensive line and a fresh change of scenery, they might get the old Carson Wentz (the MVP version) for a cheap deal for 4 years.
The Eagles are about to enter cap hell with massive levels of debt and they will need to unload some contracts and it will start with Wentz; while his contract won’t save them too much money this year, it will in the long-run and can help trigger a restart they desperately need. The Colts should be able to get him for a very cheap price.
Expected Trade Value: 6th Round Pick
Expected (Remaining) Contract: 4 years, 52.58M (79.64M paid by the Eagles) - 852k Cap Hit (2021)
A few months ago, I wrote a somewhat controversial article about the potential between Dak Prescott and the Colts and how they could end up together. I still think there’s a possibility that they end up together and if the Cowboys can’t make salary cap moves, they might be stuck. I expect they will move mountains to re-sign him, but the Colts are in position to offer him a very competitive offer and an ideal position to succeed. He would have a top 10, arguably top 5 defense, a strong offensive minded coaching staff, a great offensive line, especially in pass protection and some good young skill receivers.
It would cost the Colts an absolute fortune to sign him, getting him at at least 37M per year and 111M guaranteed over the course of 5 years, but if they were to land him, they would get a borderline top 5 quarterback in the NFL entering his prime.
Expected Contract: 5 years, 185 with 111M (60%) guaranteed
The Colts selected Eason in the 4th round in the 2020 NFL Draft, but he’s essentially redshirted this season after having no offseason or preseason. He has not received any in-game experience and has repped with the 3rd stringers and scout team for practices. The positives are known with Eason: he’s got a cannon for an arm and a good athlete, but his decision making is not up to par and he has inconsistent accuracy issues.
It’s hard to believe that a 4th round player who would only have one full offseason would get the starting job going into next season after serving as the 3rd string quarterback the year before.
Expected (Remaining) Contract: 3 years, 3.23M - 963k Cap Hit (2021)
Rookie (Wilson, Trask, Lance)
This is probably the most intriguing option. It’s safe to rule out Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields, who by most analysts, are considered locks for the top 3. That would leave Zach Wilson, Kyle Trask and Trey Lance as the top quarterbacks in the draft and all have their strengths and weaknesses. Of the three, Wilson is probably the most pro-ready (and as of this point, the best of the three), but all have seriously good upside potential. It’s hard to believe that the Colts could go into the season with a rookie as the starter, as the more sensible option is to return Rivers for another season before handing the keys off to the rookie. Nevertheless, this is still an option and a very cheap one at that.
Expected Contract: Rookie Scale Contract - 2021 Cap Hit from 2.1M to 6.1M
Top 3 Choices
These choices were made on the realistic chances that a player can end up on the Colts, plus the offensive scheme fit and skill level.
3. Carson Wentz
Wentz, as of right now, looks like the least desirable option, but let’s lay out the facts. If the Colts and Frank Reich are able to get the old Carson Wentz, then they would get an MVP-level quarterback for a 6th round pick and for 40 cents on the dollar. It’s a risk and he could be a complete bust, but if it hits, it’ll hit in a big way. The Colts could also hedge that trade/bet with drafting a rookie quarterback early on.
2. Philip Rivers
While Rivers would return as the starter, I would not rule out the Colts drafting a quarterback if they were set on bringing back Rivers, since he’d be close to 40 and running out of good years. With that being said, Rivers is still playing at a high level and has found his rhythm in the Frank Reich offense. If you give him an offseason and a full training camp with an improved receiving unit, big things could be in store for him in 2021.
1. Matthew Stafford
Stafford has been able to make something out of nothing many times in his career. In Indianapolis, he’d finally be given a competent coaching staff, a top 5 offensive line, young receivers with the potential of a big ticket receiver and a team that wants to establish the run with good running backs and not wear out the quarterback’s arm.
Stafford has the aggressive and smart mentality of Rivers with the low interception to boot. He knows how to come through in big moments and the Colts could get him on a cheap deal for the next two years and then keep him until the end of his prime if he performs.
Which option do you prefer the most?
This poll is closed
Rookie (Wilson, Trask, Lance)