The Indianapolis Colts faced one of the most challenging offseasons in the NFL last year when franchise quarterback Andrew Luck abruptly announced his retirement during the 2019 preseason. Frank Reich was left with no choice but to turn to veteran Jacoby Brissett as the season-long starter, and he responded by enjoying a relatively average season. All thing’s considered, that’s a win.
The Colts face a very different scenario this offseason, however. They can be calculated and methodical with how they approach their quarterback situation, and fortunately for Reich and the rest of his offensive coaching staff, there will be plenty of options to choose from if they decide Brissett isn’t the answer. They can move on from him despite the two-year, $30 million extension he signed last offseason; his dead-cap figure in 2020 is $12.5 million and at worst, he represents good value as a quality backup.
Let’s say, for example, Tom Brady and the Patriots are unable to strike a deal and the six-time Super Bowl winner hits the open market. The Colts, who already have pieces in place to make a deep playoff run, would be foolish not to at least consider his services.
If they want to go younger, former first-round pick Teddy Bridgewater proved last season that he’s more than worthy of calling a starting job his own when he won five games for the Saints in relief of the injured Drew Brees.
Those options will come along with a big price tag, however. The Colts can afford it; they have the fourth-most salary cap space in the NFL, according to Spotrac. But what about a cheaper and more long-term solution? Can they find their next franchise quarterback in the 2020 NFL Draft?
Can the Colts strike a draft-day deal?
Indianapolis currently holds the 13th overall pick in the first round. They’re outside the strike zone for either of the top two quarterback prospects, Joe Burrow (LSU) and Tua Tagovailoa (Alabama). Burrow is expected to be the first overall pick and Tagovailoa won’t be far behind in the top five.
Oregon’s Justin Herbert likely won’t get past the Panthers at No. 7 overall, and Utah State’s Jordan Love, while promising, may not be coveted enough to be a top-15 pick.
As a result, the Colts may have no choice but to get aggressive and try to trade into the top six in order to secure Herbert if they’re sold he’s the post-Luck answer. Here’s the hard part: finding a trade partner.
The Bengals aren’t moving out of the No. 1 pick, and there’s no way the Redskins will let Ohio State sack-master Chase Young out of their reach. That leaves the Lions as the first legitimate potential trade partner at No. 3 overall, but a 10-pick jump will be costly. The Colts would have to package both of their second-round picks (No.s 34 and 44) and next year’s first-rounder to get the deal done.
If Indianapolis is sold on Tagovailoa, then there’s probably no price too high to get him. But with his injured hip still leaving a mystery about his long-term health, caution will probably prevail.
The Giants aren’t going to move the fourth pick — Dave Gettleman has never traded down in his career as a general manager — and the Dolphins will pop champagne if Tagovailoa slides to No. 5 overall.
The Chargers at No. 6 need a quarterback of their own, followed by the Panthers at No. 7 who, if Herbert is still on the board for some reason, will give him a long look to be the Cam Newton replacement.
Jordan Love or bust
See a theme here? There are several teams in the top seven picks who will consider Herbert as their QB-next. Barring a draft-day slide, it doesn’t appear like there’s any realistic way the Colts will be able to land him.
Love will have his fans in war rooms across the NFL, and the Colts could be among them. He’s been compared to Patrick Mahomes because of his gunslinger mentality and top-tier arm, but he wasn’t challenged on a weekly basis at Utah State. He’s making a big jump in competition and if Indianapolis likes him enough to pick him at No. 13, they better have a veteran in place (hello Brissett!) who can hold down the job for a season or two while Love adjusts to the NFL.
Don’t count on the Colts making a trade in the first round to land their quarterback. Instead, they’ll wait and see who falls to them. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll fall in ‘love’ with whoever that ends up being.