The Colts will be looking for another starting quarterback in 2021 after one-year-old starter Philip Rivers decided to retire from the NFL. While Indianapolis may not have re-signed Rivers as a pending free agent, the team can now officially move on to other QB plans anyway.
With Jacoby Brissett unsigned, Jacob Eason, the Colts’ fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, leads the current depth chart at the most important position in the game. But with they expected to be around $ 65 million below the salary cap and to be No. 21 in the 2021 draft, the Colts have plenty of resources to land a longer-term franchise option.
Between those who might be available to them through free agency, drafting, and trading, here are Indianapolis’ main avenues to replace and improve from Rivers:
The Colts’ 10 best QB options in 2021
1) Mac Jones draft in the first round
Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni have an excellent balanced pattern where intelligence, tenacity and precision can be major boons, with efficient passing while playing a healthy racing game. Jones, fresh out of the Alabama championship, isn’t necessarily impressed with his athleticism and arm, but he makes good decisions and is capable of making every throw.
The Colts need to rebuild their offensive line a bit with left tackle Anthony Castonzo joining retired Rivers and could also reshape their receiving corps further with unsigned TY Hilton. But they can give Jones another strong support system to be successful as a pocket passer.
Staying in 21st place, the Colts have to worry about Washington (19th) or the Bears (20th) skipping them for Jones. If he’s still on the set, however, it would be hard to pass compared to a replacement for Castonzo or Hilton.
2) Trade for Trey Lance’s draft in the first round
After Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence goes to the Jaguars, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and BYU’s Zach Wilson aren’t expected to last long on the board, likely in the top 10 as well. But Lance, the complete product of the state of North Dakota, is back riding boards to the point that he can go anywhere between # 11 and # 20. Lance, with the same college pedigree as Carson Wentz, should have some appeal to Reich, the man who made the most of Wentz in the NFL.
Lance offers a bigger arm, more athleticism, and a bigger edge than Jones, though he might need a bit more initial polish to produce in the NFL with his limited college playing experience. The Colts might get aggressive for it, but by no means are they settling for Jones, who has the mental makeup to have a long professional career.
3) Draft Kyle Trask in the first round
Trask, with his arm and athleticism branding and passing style of spreading the ball and getting it out quickly, fits naturally into Reich’s modern version of the West Coast program. He has some of the qualities of Jones and is used to operating in an offense where working on the inside until the tight end and lunge are staples.
Trask may be more of a first round on the limit than Jones at this point, but he would be a very good plan C. With more development plans on the board after Trask, the Colts won’t find an immediate starter in the draft without fall. return to Trask, at worst with a slight decrease.
4) Trade for Deshaun Watson
The Colts, like all NFL teams in need of a QB in 2021, would love to have Watson. The problem is, it’s extremely difficult, but not unprecedented, to pull off a big QB trade with a division rival (see Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia to Washington). The Colts also don’t have the best starting point for a deal involving first-round picks topped 21st overall.
If there’s a chance that GM Chris Ballard can somehow make it work and get Watson out of Houston with the best offer, he should give it a go. Otherwise, it’s a long against the divisionless teams who can compensate better.
5) Trade for Matt Ryan
The Falcons, with new offensive coach Arthur Smith, are more linked to taking a new QB franchise in the first round at No.4, Fields or Wilson. While there is a scenario where Atlanta would do more of this with the intention of preparing this rookie to replace Ryan as the starter in 2022, there is a way for the team to trade Ryan in 2021.
Say their first-round potential blows them away during the pre-draft process and continues to prove he’s capable of playing at a high level straight away at the start of off-season practice. Then the Falcons can move Ryan after June 1 for a limited amount of dead money ($ 17.9 million) and a solid pay cap relief ($ 26.5 million), which would previously be prohibitive. The Colts should be patient here and have a contingency just in case that can’t be resolved, and it can only work if the Falcons lock in to take a high QB.
6) Trade for Jimmy Garoppolo
Meanwhile, the 49ers can pass and move Garoppolo without a hitch as soon as the league’s year begins in March. An exchange would cost them just $ 2.8 million in dead money and come with a maximum relief of $ 23.4 million. The Colts and 49ers were good trading partners last year, when defensive tackle DeForest Buckner sent to Indianapolis for a first round that worked for both teams.
Garoppolo has proven adaptable to patterns, making a successful transition from Josh McDaniels’ Erhardt-Perkins mastery to Kyle Shanahan’s expertise on the West Coast. Garoppolo is better as a dependent QB, and the Colts have the line, the going play and the pass catchers to get the most of him in their system. Ryan, who has prospered most for Shanahan, is the biggest prize, but Garoppolo can also help the Colts continue to win plenty of games.
7) Trade for Carson Wentz
Without rivers, there is a clear path to a reunion of Wentz with Reich. Problem is, Doug Pederson’s firing suggests that Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie would like his new coaching staff to make him work and work well with Wentz, rather than second-round second-year Jalen Hurts. There’s no question the Colts can afford the rest of Wentz’s contract, which is said to be around $ 25 million a year, which is the amount they paid Rivers for a year.
If the Colts think Wentz can be special with Reich again, they could force the Eagles’ hand and make Howie Roseman more compelled to change the mindset in Philadelphia. Do not rule out this option for Ballard yet.
8) Trade for Matthew Stafford
The Lions could also jump from their veteran QB with a shot at either Fields or Wilson at No. 7 overall, as GM Brad Holmes and coach Dan Campbell’s new combination looks to win quickly for the team comes back on victory. Track. Detroit doesn’t have a contract with Stafford as bad as Atlanta with Ryan or quite as good as San Francisco with Garoppolo. Trading Stafford before June 1 will cost a good chunk of dead money ($ 19 million), but also healthy cap savings ($ 14 million).
Stafford may win in the Reich system, but the adjustment wouldn’t be as natural as for the QBs listed above, including rookies. Yet if the now winning Colts are determined to replace Rivers with an accomplished veteran similar to a rookie, what the Lions plan to do in the post must be on the Colts’ radar.
9) Re-sign Jacoby Brissett
Brissett had his chance to start after Andrew Luck retired two years ago and the attack was limited. Behind Rivers, his main role was to QB on short distance and on the goal line. He had more time to absorb the Reich system as a replacement and respected leader of the team. The Colts could always give him another chance if no other plan works. With Dak Prescott truly unavailable, bringing Brissett back against another team’s free agents is better than going for another unknown bridge QB.
10) Ride with Jacob Eason
How about staying in-house? With Eason’s development not ramping up as a rookie, this is a tough second-year sale, just as the Patriots have tried to get everyone to believe Jarrett Stidham is the definitive replacement for Tom Brady until Cam Newton’s summer signing.
The Colts must have liked a lot of Eason’s attributes when they shoot him on Day 3, but they’re unlikely to hand him the skillful attack of a playoff team with so many other options.