What Options Do The Colts Have to Replace Carson Wentz?
The way that the decision makers for the Indianapolis Colts have talked in recent days, it seems that yet another move at quarterback is definitely on the table this offseason.
General Manager Chris Ballard spoke to the media today and he didn't mince his words in referring to the play of his quarterback. Here is what he said in regards to the offseason trade for Carson Wentz today:
"At the time, we felt it was the right decision…I’m not going to make a comment on who is going to be here next year and who is not." (via ESPN's Mike Wells)
Reading in between the lines of this comment, and many others from today, does cast some doubt over Wentz's future with the team. If the team opts to move on from him this offseason, they would be on the hook for 15 million in dead cap, but they would free up around 13 million in space.
If they ultimately do decide to move on from the highly volatile quarterback, who could they replace him with? Would it be another band-aid or a legitimate answer? In today's article, I dive into a few of the options for the team.
Superstars on the Market
The two names that have been thrown around since late offseason as being available in trade talks are Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers. The two future Hall of Famers are reportedly ready to move on from their current situations and could be acquired in the offseason by some lucky teams.
The biggest issue with this, when it comes to the Colts, is that the team simply won't be able to put together that intriguing of a trade package for the Seattle Seahawks or Green Bay Packers to accept.
With the team being out of a first round pick in this upcoming draft, it is hard to see the Colts actually being in the running for either player. This is a nice dream to have, but I wouldn't get my hopes up too high on the team acquire either one of these players.
Potential Trade Targets
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
The target that could make a lot of sense for the Colts is veteran quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. While far from perfect, he has put together a solid career in the NFL. In his two full seasons as a starter in San Fransisco, he has averaged a 68.7% completion percentage, 3,894 yards passing, and 23 touchdowns a year. He also helped lead the 49ers to the Super Bowl back in 2019.
The Colts also reportedly brought up Garoppolo's name in the initial trade talks for DeForest Buckner back in 2020 as well, so the interest could be there. While he may not be the surefire, long-term answer, Garoppolo would very much be an upgrade over the Colts' current situation at the position.
With the 49ers likely to move on from the veteran quarterback (in order to start Trey Lance), the Colts could be one of many teams to pursue his talents. I'm not sure if the Colts have the draft capital to acquire him, but they should absolutely look into this option once the offseason truly starts up.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings
While this next name may not be the most exciting one out there, Cousins has put together a quality NFL career. He has thrown for at least 4,000 yards in six of his seven years as a starter, and has thrown for at least 30 touchdowns in three of those years. His career average completion percentage sits firmly at 67.7% as a starter.
Cousins does have a tendency to fizzle out in bigger moments, but he has shown that he can operate an offense at a high level for most of the season. He would be a noticeable upgrade over the inconsistencies of Wentz, and he would major improvement in terms of getting the ball out quick in the passing game.
Trading for Cousins would be an extremely tricky move, though. The 34 year old is due 45 million this upcoming season, which is entirely guaranteed. The Colts would likely have to have the Vikings take on Wentz and his contract to make this trade work, while also departing with a few picks to make this trade even out.
While I think this is an upgrade on paper, I'm not if Indy could pull off this move.
Gardner Minshew, Eagles
Considering that the Eagles would probably be happy to trade with the Colts again, they could call about backup Gardner Minshew. Minshew is far from a proven commodity, only 22 starts in three seasons, but he has shown flashes of being a quality quarterback. His completion percentage has climbed from 60% up to 68% in his three seasons, and he has always done a good job of keeping his turnovers to a minimum.
The issue with this scenario is it likely doesn't move the needle in any way significantly. Minshew would be better at attacking underneath and is a more accurate passer overall, but he would likely have a similar result as Wentz this past year.
Would trading even more draft capital for that really be worth it?
Free Agent Options
Teddy Bridgewater, Broncos
While these free agent names are likely just band-aid solutions, these players could run the Colts' offense at a much more consistent and efficient level than Wentz. Bridgewater is the ultimate band-aid option, but he has put together a decent NFL career.
In his last three seasons, his lowest completion percentage in a single year has been 66.9%. He understands how to operate a short passing game offense without adding any wow factor at the position.
As someone that covered Bridgewater with the Broncos this past year, I feel confident in saying that he would elevate the overall floor of the Colts' offense. Is he worth a big one-year contract along with the dead cap in cutting Wentz, though? I'm firmly in the 'meh' category on that one.
Marcus Mariota, Raiders
While he did flame out with the Titans, Mariota is still an interesting quarterback to look into. He is cut in the same mold as Bridgewater, as he is nothing flashy and more of an underneath passing quarterback.
The biggest appeal with Mariota is the Colts could potentially install a more RPO-heavy run offense with a passer that will utilize the short game. The net positive of the offense would likely be the same, but the offense could be more efficient overall.
I believe this move would be a really tough sell for a fanbase, especially after the seemingly all-in move to acquire Wentz a year ago. I'm don't think the move to Mariota is worth eating Wentz's contract.
Options in the Draft
While this is considered a weaker draft by most analysts, there are a few interesting options that could be available when the Colts make their first selection in the second round.
I did recently write about a few options that the Colts could pursue in a recent article earlier this week. While it may be more fun or interesting to bring in a draft prospect rather than rolling out Wentz again, there is a great chance that a rookie second round pick would be a major downgrade in year one.
Can Frank Reich or Chris Ballard afford to have a major downgrade next season? I don't think they can. If the Colts do pursue a quarterback in the draft, I'd expect it to be for the backup job, rather than for a starter in 2022.
What Will Actually Happen?
All season I, and many others, have operated with the notion that the Carson Wentz experiment would be a two-year trial run with the final decision coming at the end of 2022 on whether he would stay as the quarterback.
After recent comments from Ballard and Reich though, I am much less certain as of late. There are plenty of options out there for the Colts to upgrade this offseason, but there aren't many viable solutions to this long-term issue at quarterback.
Basically, it will be very interesting to see how the Colts manage this situation. Will they be content with running it back or will they eat the dead cap just to get somebody else in the building?
All I know for certain is that Colts' fans are growing pretty restless about the entire situation. If the team isn't able to make the playoffs in 2022, regardless of what the move is in this offseason, I think we will see a lot of the fanbase looking for scapegoats to hold responsible.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.