A year after trading first- and third-round draft picks for Carson Wentz, the Colts have parted ways with their starting quarterback, reportedly agreeing Wednesday to send Wentz to the Commanders as part of a swap of future picks. The ex-Eagles standout wasn’t necessarily bad in 2021, but his poor finish inspired team owner Jim Irsay to headline an internal push for a quick divorce, which instantly saves the Colts $28 million. Now the question is: where does Indianapolis turn next under center?
Former sixth-round pick Sam Ehlinger and former Jets fourth-rounder James Morgan are still in the Colts’ QB room. But with coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard looking to return to the playoffs after missing out in 2021, another name will almost certainly be added. Here are seven logical targets:
If Carr has his way, he’ll be a lifelong Raider, soon handsomely paid on a big-money extension after a solid, if unspectacular, career in silver and black. New coach Josh McDaniel has also committed to Carr as his 2022 QB. But let’s say contract talks don’t go nearly as smoothly as anticipated; Carr, for instance, figures to command at least $35 million per year on a new deal. Is there a scenario where McDaniels would rather take a flyer on old pal Jimmy Garoppolo (and reassess the entire position in 2023) than pay top-10 money to a QB from another regime? Maybe. And if so, the Colts would give Carr a chance to jump from one borderline playoff team to another, likely with the long-term extension he craves. It’s a long shot, but you can bet Indy will try.
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He might be the Colts’ most realistic potential “big” swing at QB. While new Vikings coach Kevin O’Connell has a positive history with Cousins, Minnesota brass has every reason to explore a trade, with the QB due a whopping $45M in 2022. Like Carr, he’s long been a borderline top-10 QB — reliably efficient with a good arm, albeit little postseason success. Now that the Broncos, another logical landing spot, are off the board after their blockbuster Russell Wilson acquisition, the Colts could still allow the Vikings to ship their QB out of the NFC (and draft a replacement and/or add a cheaper stopgap, like old friend Teddy Bridgewater). Indy, meanwhile, would be getting at least a slight upgrade under center, for 2022 or beyond.
If Cousins is the most realistic “big” swing, then Garoppolo is probably the most realistic option in general. The 49ers have all but confirmed they’ll be dealing the former Super Bowl starter as they transition to the Trey Lance era, and Garoppolo has proven he can be the point guard Indy wanted Wentz to be in 2021. Be efficient. Lean on the run and defense. Get to the playoffs. That’s been Jimmy G’s M.O. The issue is, he’s rarely stayed healthy (and is currently rehabbing from shoulder surgery), so this move — which would involve paying at least some of Garoppolo’s $25M cap hit — comes with a fair amount of risk.
Call him the 1B to Garoppolo when it comes to most realistic options. With Aaron Rodgers locked up in Green Bay, the Packers will assuredly field — if not seek out — offers for their former first-round pick. And while Love is obviously unproven, touting a big but unrefined arm, he was reportedly a hot target of the Colts back in 2020, when Indy didn’t have a first-round pick but apparently considered moving up to make him Philip Rivers‘ heir apparent. He may not feel like the right play to save Reich and Ballard’s careers, but maybe he also buys them time as the “first-round QB” they’ve failed to land? With no Day One draft pick again this year, at least the 23-year-old Love would give them upside at the position.
Teddy has proven over and over that he’s best suited as a top-flight backup and spot starter, but as a bridge to a better long-term option, you can do worse. The safest option in a weak 2022 free-agent QB class, Bridgewater offers a relatively high floor. He’s basically a less excitable, explosive version of 2021 Wentz. Which, to be frank, isn’t all that inspiring but may have to do.
Winston’s best home is probably in New Orleans, where the Saints helped shepherd his slow foray back into a starting role, but if the Colts prefer upside to stability while spending less, they could look his way as a one-year flyer and clear path to the No. 1 job. He proved early in 2021 he might be able to avoid the turnover sprees that plagued him with the Buccaneers, but he’s also coming off an ACL tear and played a full season just once in the last five years.
Why the heck not? He obviously wouldn’t be the only guy the Colts add if they acquire him, but Reich had success with Foles during their time together in Philadelphia, and the Bears‘ veteran backup has quietly been hungry for another shot at real playing time. He’s due $10.6M in 2022, which is expensive for a No. 2/3 but reasonable for a stopgap.