According to ESPN’s Dan Graziano and Jeremy Fowler (subscription), ‘the name that’s been heard the most’ as the Indianapolis Colts’ new starting quarterback is Las Vegas Raiders free agent passer Marcus Mariota:
“The name I’m hearing the most as the Indianapolis Colts’ answer at quarterback is free-agent Marcus Mariota, who has been Derek Carr’s backup with the Raiders over the past couple of seasons,” writes Graziano and Fowler. “There are also people who think Minnesota’s Cousins could end up in Indianapolis, though it’s unclear if Cousins is going anywhere.”
Now 28 years old, the former 2015 2nd overall pick of the Tennessee Titans has served as the primary backup to Derek Carr during the last two seasons.
However, he has flashed his talent in limited action during that same span, including in a 2020 regular season Week 15 spot start against the Los Angeles Chargers (in which he threw for 226 total passing yards, a touchdown, and an interception; and ran for 88 total rushing yards and a rushing touchdown):
Marcus Mariota talent is still there! Arm talent, mobility, creativity, and playbook expansion.— Damian Parson (@DP_NFL) March 13, 2022
Give my guy another shot! pic.twitter.com/Jpqe5L5WcI
In that regard, Mariota could be a reclamation project of sorts for his next NFL team.
At 6’4”, 222 pounds, with mobility, Mariota would provide a dual-threat quarterback option to allow head coach Frank Reich to run his ideal Colts offense—featuring RPOs, play-action, and the occasional bootleg to complement Jonathan Taylor and the ground game.
Also important, Mariota is a free agent, so the Colts would not have to surrender additional draft capital—having already lost their 2022 first round pick in the failed Carson Wentz deal.
During 7 seasons, Mariota has completed 1,128 of 1,795 pass attempts (62.8% completion rate) for 13,437 passing yards, 77 touchdowns, 45 interceptions, and a passer rating of 89.5 during 74 career games (61 starts).
In my opinion, I could see Mariota either working out really well for the Colts—and he would certainly be an upgrade in leadership to his Indy predecessor, but the ceiling also seems fairly low from some of the shortfalls in the Titans’ passing game when he was starting at the helm—forcing them to eventually make an earlier change in 2019 (turning to current starter Ryan Tannehill).
Mariota might make the most sense if paired with an early 2022 NFL Draft rookie quarterback behind him—as insurance, but also to be simultaneously groomed. However, there also has to be such a top passing prospect that the Colts actually like in this year’s draft class enough to select at such a spot.