Colts owner Jim Irsay has gone from not having to really worry about the quarterback position for nearly 20 years to now heading into his second straight offseason not knowing who will be the starter in 2021.
“The type of team we have, it would really benefit us most if we could have someone who can come in and play at a high level, with a veteran vision,” Irsay said Wednesday.
The Colts have a young and talented roster, led by linebacker Darius Leonard and guard Quenton Nelson, but they have a substantial void at quarterback. Veteran Philip Rivers, 39, led the Colts to just their second playoff appearance since 2014, but he announced Jan. 20 that he was retiring after 17 seasons.
Rivers’ retirement means the Colts could have their fifth different Week 1 starting quarterback in 2021 after they had Peyton Manning or Andrew Luck basically from 1998 until 2019. Rookie Jacob Eason is the only quarterback currently under contract for the Colts. Jacoby Brissett, who started Week 1 in 2019, is scheduled to be a free agent.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s belief is that a team is not all about the quarterback; it’s about having a complete roster. But there has to be stability at quarterback, as the four teams that reached the NFC and AFC Championship Games — Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Kansas City and Buffalo — all have that.
“Our belief is we’re close, that we have a tremendous nucleus of players that are capable of competing for the Super Bowl very soon,” Irsay said. “Ideally if you can get someone to come in this year who’s ready to go, it gives you your best opportunity.”
The Colts are projected to have around $69 million in salary-cap space, but it’s not really a hot free-agent market at quarterback, as players like Cam Newton and Jameis Winston highlight that group. Ballard didn’t sound optimistic about drafting a quarterback at their current position, No. 21, in the first round.
The other option is the trade market, where Detroit’s Matthew Stafford continues to be linked to the Colts as a possible destination.
Irsay acknowledged that the franchise would gladly welcome back Luck, who suddenly retired in August 2019, if he decides to resume his career. The two haven’t discussed a possible return, but the owner did joke that he will continue to look at his fax machine in case the quarterback decided to take a page out of Michael Jordan’s book by sending a message that simply said, “I’m back,” like Jordan following his first retirement from the Chicago Bulls.
“He knows how much we’d love to have him be our quarterback, there’s just no question about that,” Irsay said. “But at the same time, we know for it to work out, he has to be the one that says ‘You know what? I’m ready. I want to really create a little bit of history, in unprecedented aspects.'”
Irsay added, “I don’t know if we’ll see that. I think he’s happy. He’s raising his daughter. He has a wonderful family. He’s a great Colt and he knows that he can come back any time he wants, but at the same time, we respect that he’s made that decision.”
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