According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler (subscription), NFL execs have predicted the Indianapolis Colts to acquire either Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford or the Philadelphia Eagles Carson Wentz during the 2021 offseason respectively.
Here are some snippets below:
Matthew Stafford or Carson Wentz to the Colts
“The Colts can choose to run it back with Rivers. But the long-term answer at quarterback might finally await them.
‘I think they signed Philip Rivers to one year for a reason — they saw it as a stopgap,’ said an AFC exec of Rivers, who has passed for 4,005 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. ‘He can still play, but mobility is an issue. They’ve been pretty methodical and waiting for the right time to strike. This could be the time [at quarterback].’
Enter Stafford, whose trade viability has never felt more palpable after 12 years in Detroit.
... there’s plenty of value in a 32-year-old widely considered a top-12 quarterback who comes cheaper than most starters. Stafford’s $34.95 million cap hit in 2021 is misleading. A $9 base million is the only money due next season, and the Colts are slated to have $57.2 million in cap space. That’s good value for a high-level player who has 44,816 career yards, 279 touchdowns and 143 interceptions.
Wentz’s future is cloudier. As we broke down earlier this month, the dead money attached to Wentz’s contract hurts the Eagles, whether they trade or keep him. But some executives believe Philadelphia will at least try, given the experiment with rookie second-round pick Jalen Hurts has gone relatively well.
Colts coach Frank Reich’s presence looms large here. Wentz threw 49 touchdown passes and 21 picks with Reich as his offensive coordinator in Philly from 2016 to ‘17, and word is the two connected on a personal level.
‘Maybe [Wentz] would rework his deal in order to facilitate a deal,’ an NFC exec said. ‘At this point, he might simply want out.’”
More than likely, 39 year old veteran quarterback Philip Rivers returns for one final season in Indianapolis during 2021—who signed a 1-year, $25 million deal during the 2020 offseason, that is set to expire at year-end.
When the wily gunslinger has had adequate pass protection and an effective ground game going, Rivers has been pretty good, having completed 353 of 517 pass attempts (68.3%) for 4,005 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a passer rating of 98.0.
He’s been an upgrade to the Colts’ 2019 starter, Jacoby Brissett, and Indianapolis could try to groom a top rookie passer under him for his ‘swan song’ in 2021 before fully handing over the reins to their franchise quarterback of the future a year later. (I’m not writing off Colts’ 2020 4th round pick, Jacob Eason, but he’s more of a lottery ticket at this stage).
Rivers isn’t an NFL star quarterback anymore, but he’s a polished veteran leader, who knows Colts head coach Frank Reich’s offense in-and-out and is good enough to make the playoffs with for Indianapolis.
However, Rivers has lost some zip ‘off his best fastball’ with diminished arm strength, and he’s hands down the least mobile quarterback in the NFL as a pure statue in the pocket—with Brissett having to come in for the Colts to QB sneak it [or at least threaten to] in short yardage situations (because Rivers is simply immobile).
Then there’s Stafford.
The 2009 first overall pick may have gone from ‘over to underrated’ in Detroit, as Stafford just hasn’t had a strong overall supporting cast to consistently work with throughout his 12-year playing career.
Yes, he had freak Calvin ‘Megatron’ Johnson earlier in Detroit, and Kenny Golladay is currently no slouch, but the Lions have routinely lacked an offensive line, a running game, and largely haven’t had much of a defense in Detroit since Stafford’s anticipated arrival.
Stafford has put the Lions in the playoffs three times during his career, but he’s never advanced past the wild card round of the NFC playoffs.
The 2014 Pro Bowler has completed 319 of 497 passes (64.2%) for 3,791 passing yards, 23 touchdowns, 9 interceptions, and a passer rating of 95.2 during 15 starts for the Lions in 2020.
At 32 years old, which is 7 years younger than Rivers, Stafford looks far more dynamic at this stage of their respective careers—and rightfully so.
While not a rushing quarterback, Stafford has the ability to move and escape pressure in the pocket and still possesses an absolute cannon for an arm. He’d be a major upgrade to Rivers in both regards, but to be fair, he isn’t nearly as familiar with the Colts offense.
Stafford’s definitely a veteran quarterback who could benefit from a much needed change of scenery and getting out of Detroit all together though. He’s also young enough, where the Colts could get at least a handful of highly productive seasons out of him yet, so he’s not necessarily a stopgap either.
Meanwhile, the other speculated big name quarterback to the Colts, Carson Wentz, is less likely to be as popular among Indianapolis fans.
The 2nd overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft once looked like he was going to ascend into becoming one of the league’s top quarterbacks, following an MVP caliber season in 2017 where he threw for 33 touchdowns to 7 interceptions and led the Philadelphia Eagles to an 11-2 record—before his stellar year was cut short with a season-ending torn ACL.
Of course, the Eagles, with Reich as offensive coordinator, went on to win the Super Bowl during that magical (and improbable) run with Wentz’ backup Nick Foles, who caught fire down the stretch and playoffs.
Reich has obvious familiarity with Wentz, having coached him for two seasons in Philadelphia, and Wentz is probably familiar with some wrinkles of the Colts offense already.
With his ability to run a little bit, if he can get back to his old self again, Wentz might even be the closest thing from a playing style perspective to Colts retired franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.
Like Stafford, when ‘Wentz is going well’, he’s far more dynamic than Rivers.
Wentz just hasn’t played good football though this season—although to be fair, the Eagles have been banged up with both their offensive line and receivers. The Eagles offense also still might miss the giant void left by Reich, and seemingly so does Wentz.
The 5-year veteran has completed 251 of 437 pass attempts (57.4%) for 2,620 passing yards, 16 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and a passer rating of 72.8 during 12 starts for the Eagles before he was benched in favor of rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts late this season.
Still only 28 years old, Wentz has tremendous upside if he can regain his prior All-Pro form, but he also has a very low floor—as he’s been pretty dreadful this season.
The Colts and specifically Reich would have to be fully convinced that Wentz ‘the former MVP candidate’ is still in there and able to be brought out with the proper coaching again because a swing-and-miss could set the Horseshoe back for a few more years—and the franchise is still recovering from Luck’s abrupt retirement ahead of the 2019 season.
While Rivers returning is still the safe bet currently for the Colts, both Stafford and Wentz could theoretically be far more dynamic—but not without risk, especially in the latter’s case.