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Who are Some of the Potentially Available Starting QB Replacements for the Colts?

Detroit Lions v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

With veteran quarterback Philip Rivers having recently retired, the Indianapolis Colts are in the market again for a starting quarterback ahead of a consecutive offseason.

While the longtime Chargers quarterback ultimately calling it a career wasn’t surprising, the early offseason timing of it was, which could actually work to the Colts benefit—as far as getting more time to get a lay of the available quarterback landscape and to more seriously pursue potential options—knowing full well now that Rivers isn’t returning anymore.

Still, it’s expected to be a seller’s market with more quarterback needy teams than available starting caliber quarterback options.

That being said, there are a handful of replacements out there that could theoretically be available for the Colts and pique their interest:


The Veterans

NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Age: 32 years old

Size: 6’3”, 220 pounds

Draft Pick: 1st overall pick of the 2009 NFL Draft

2021 Contract: $33M cap hit ($20M to acquiring team via Kyle Rapoza)

2020 Stats: Completed 339 of 528 passes (64.2%) for 4,084 passing yards, 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a passer rating of 96.3 in all 16 starts.

Overview:

The big armed former top overall pick continues to put up strong numbers in Detroit, despite not historically having a strong supporting cast around him.

Stafford is tough too, having played through torn rib cartilage, a broken thumb, a broken back, and a separated shoulder—among injuries that we actually know of. He’s consistently been a leader in the Lions locker room, as his teammates love playing with him.

On a Colts team that is built to win now, Stafford is the potential available veteran option who makes the most sense for Indianapolis—which is why he’s listed first here (but no, these aren’t necessarily listed in any order otherwise).

Stafford’s someone who could really benefit from a much needed change of scenery and passing behind the Colts’ strong pass protecting offensive line—assuming the team can shore up its vacant left tackle position.

While the Colts may lose some accuracy, Stafford would be a significant upgrade to his Colts starting quarterback predecessor in arm strength—featuring an absolute cannon, as well as mobility, with the ability to move a little bit and escape duress/extend plays outside the pocket.

Not to mention, he’d bring play-action back to play off of the Colts power running game to serve as a complement through the air and keep opposing defenses honest.

Stafford simply makes a lot of sense for Indianapolis—with at least a handful of highly productive seasons left, but the issue is whether the Detroit Lions actually make him available this offseason—whose new regime initially appears that it wants him to return.


NFL: Indianapolis Colts at Philadelphia Eagles Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

Age: 28 years old

Size: 6’5”, 237 pounds

Draft Pick: 2nd overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft

2021 Contract: $34.7M cap hit ($25.4M to acquiring team via Kyle Rapoza)

2020 Stats: Completed 251 of 437 passes (57.4%) for 2,620 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, and a passer rating of 72.8 during 12 starts.

Overview:

It wasn’t that long ago that Wentz was a former NFL MVP candidate, when he threw for 33 touchdowns to 7 interceptions during 2017 before suffering a season-ending torn ACL.

Of course, the Eagles would go on to win the Super Bowl during that improbable, yet magical run in Wentz’ absence—as backup Nick Foles got red hot down the stretch.

The Eagles offensive coordinator then was Frank Reich, who already has a great deal of familiarity and is presumably comfortable with Wentz.

It’s not clear whether the Eagles pending new coaching staff will want to keep Wentz, but having geared their search towards offensive minded head coaching candidates—including the Colts own offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, the front office may want whoever is calling the sideline shots to hopefully fix him—as a ‘quarterback whisperer’.

Should the Eagles elect to go with dual-threat Jalen Hurts going forward, who Wentz was ultimately benched for after a disappointing season, it’s possible that Reich and the Colts coaching staff could take a gamble on Wentz as a reclamation projects of sorts—hoping that they can help him regain his prior 2nd-Team NFL All-Pro form.

Reich perhaps knows what makes Wentz tick better than anyone—since the two shared so much success with one another previously in Philadelphia.

From purely a playing style perspective, Wentz—when he’s actually going right, might also arguably be the closest thing to retired Colts franchise quarterback Andrew Luck—with his ability to run and throw at a high level.

Still, he and his next coaching staff have some serious work to do to fully rebound.

While Wentz seemed entirely too risky before Rivers’ retirement, his acquisition becomes more reasonable—now that the Colts no longer have the 39 year old veteran available as a safe, comfortable fallback option.

The available options may be growing increasingly fewer for the Colts, and even though Wentz has a fairly low floor, he also has a very high ceiling.


The Greenie

NFL: New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

Age: 23 year old

Size: 6’3”, 225 pounds

Draft Pick: 3rd overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft

2021 Contract: $9.8M cap hit ($4.8M to acquiring team via Kyle Rapoza)

2020 Stats: Completed 217 of 364 passes (59.6%) for 2,208 passing yards, 9 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a passer rating of 72.7 during 12 starts.

Overview:

Perhaps things would come full-circle for the Colts and Darnold, if general manager Chris Ballard, who obtained a king’s ransom for the Jets to trade up for Sam Darnold in 2018—swapping picks, then selecting 3x NFL First-Team All-Pro offensive guard Quenton Nelson among others in what was an acquired draft haul—would eventually obtain the young quarterback regardless.

Darnold has lost some of his prospect shine as a young quarterback, having admittedly ‘seen ghosts’. However, he’s also been significantly hindered by the Jets’ lack of quality supporting cast, and the horrendous head coaching of fired head coach Adam Gase.

Just look at what happened to quarterback Ryan Tannehill with the Tennessee Titans once he left Gase’s career-damaging grasp.

Darnold has a big arm and can move, and a lot of the promise and potential that once made him such a high draft pick is still there. However, he also has to get rid of some of his acquired bad habits and the scarring from having played for such a dreadful franchise.

That won’t be easy.

He’s not a fresh ball of clay like an NFL rookie otherwise would be. Still, he’s only 24 years old and could be worth a roll of the dice for an interested trade suitor.

Nevertheless, at initial glance, it appears that the Jets and specifically new head coach Robert Saleh believe Darnold has ‘untapped potential’ and may elect to stick with him for at least one more season to see what the franchise truly has—before possibly moving on.


The Trade-Up Rookies

RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl - BYU v Central Florida Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

Zach Wilson, BYU

Year: Junior

Size: 6’3”, 209 pounds

2020 Stats: Completed 247 of 336 passes (73.5%) for 3,692 passing yards, 33 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions during 12 starts.

Had 70 carries for 254 rushing yards (3.6 ypc. avg.) and 10 rushing touchdowns.

What they’re saying:


CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Justin Fields, Ohio State

Year: Junior

Size: 6”3”, 227 pounds

2020 Stats: Completed 158 of 225 passing attempts (70.2%) for 2,100 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, and 6 interceptions during 8 starts.

Had 81 carries for 383 rushing yards (4.7 ypc. avg.) and 5 rushing touchdowns.

What they’re saying:


Butler v North Dakota State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Trey Lance, North Dakota State

Year: Junior

Size: 6’3”, 221 pounds

*2019 Stats (Lance played in only one game during 2020 because of COVID-19): Completed 192 of 287 passes (66.9%) for 2,786 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions during 16 starts.

Had 169 carries for 1,100 rushing yards (6.5 ypc. avg.) and 14 rushing touchdowns.

What they’re saying:


The Rookies Projected Available at #21

CFP National Championship Presented by AT&T - Ohio State v Alabama Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Mac Jones, Alabama

Year: Junior

Size: 6’3”, 214 pounds

2020 Stats: Completed 275 of 357 passes (77.0%) for 4,036 passing yards, 36 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions during 12 starts.

What they’re saying:


Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - Oklahoma v Florida Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Kyle Trask, Florida

Year: Senior

Size: 6’5”, 240 pounds

2020 Stats: Completed 301 of 437 passes (68.9%) for 4,283 passing yards, 43 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions during 8 starts.

What they’re saying: