January 22, 2021

Ranking the Colts' Top 10 Options to Replace Philip Rivers in Indianapolis

After 17 NFL seasons, Philip Rivers announced that he is hanging it up and officially retiring. While he never won a Super Bowl, he has been one of the best quarterbacks the NFL has seen in the 2000s.

One of the most underrated aspects of Rivers’ career was the fact that he started in all 16 games for 15 straight seasons. Rivers was a reliable starter who threw for over 400 touchdowns and 60,000 yards.

Now after one season in Indianapolis, the Colts are tasked with yet again finding another starting quarterback who can make them legit contenders next season. The foundation is there with a great defense and stellar offensive line.

With a roster ready to compete, the Colts could be one of the most aggressive teams in the offseason when it comes to acquiring a quarterback. Here are their 10 best — and most realistic, for the most part — options for Indianapolis. 

10. Deshaun Watson

While Deshaun Watson could be available via trade, it's nearly impossible to see how the Texans quarterback lands in Indianapolis. 

The Texans might not be the savviest organization when it comes to trades, it would still be crazy to trade their 25-year-old franchise quarterback to a team inside their division to torture them two times a year for the next decade.

Plus, there are simply better deals on the table for Texans, like from the Jets and Dolphins

9. Andrew Luck 

Sorry, Colts fans. Indy has a better chance of convincing Andrew Luck to come out of retirement than landing Watson. 

This is probably unrealistic, but we're sure Colts fans wouldn't mind having their franchise quarterback back after he suddenly retired two years ago. 

8. Jacoby Brissett

Technically, the only quarterback that is still signed with the Indianapolis Colts right now is Jacob Eason, the team’s third-string quarterback for the 2020 season. Jacoby Brissett was the team’s backup and came in for short rushing situations and Hail Mary attempts.

Through five NFL seasons, Brissett has shown to be more of a backup than a starter. Considering the Colts have a roster capable of competing with the AFC elite, it doesn’t seem wise to waste a season trying to give Brissett a chance to be something different than he has been his whole career.

Having said that, he should come back as a backup again in 2021, especially if the Colts bring in another aging veteran who isn’t very mobile. Like a certain Falcons quarterback... 

7. Matt Ryan

When the 2021 season starts, Matt Ryan will be 36, two years younger than Rivers was when he started with the Colts. 

Throughout his career, Ryan has been on offenses that have been very passing orientated. Since 2011, Ryan has thrown for at least 4,000 yards and 20 touchdowns every season. His MVP season was just four seasons ago in 2016 when he threw for 4,944 yards and 38 touchdowns.

Coming to Indianapolis would take the pressure off of Ryan. The Colts are virtually the opposite of the Atlanta Falcons. They have a great defense and a strong rushing attack, which would keep Ryan from having to throw the ball 30+ times every game. 

The only problem? If the Falcons trade Ryan, he'll count for nearly $50 million in a dead cap hit. With the salary cap certain to go down, will Atlanta be able to swallow such a big cap hit? 

6. Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston might not be Colts coach Frank Reich's cup of tea. The former No. 1 overall pick has an affinity for turning the ball over, something the conservative coach loathes. But Winston, after having LASIK eye surgery and spending a year studying under Drew Brees and the Saints, could be a low-risk, high-reward veteran for Indy. 

Winston might not have a huge market, either, as he signed a lowly $1 million deal with the Saints last offseason. 

5. Dak Prescott

The best free agent on the market, Dak Prescott probably won't be available this offseason, but until he is franchised or signs a long-term deal with the Cowboys, he's the perfect choice for the Colts' offense. 

Prescott probably sees a nice landing spot in Indy, too. He'll be coached by Reich, play behind an offensive line that has talent similar to the Cowboys' elite offensive lines of the past few years and some developing weapons in the passing game. 

The Colts could afford Prescott's asking price, too. Indianapolis currently has the second-most cap space in the NFL with a projected $64.9 million. 

4. Rookie Quarterback

The Colts are sitting with the 21st overall pick of the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft. If they are still without a starting quarterback come April 29th, they may turn to the draft to fill their gaping hole. Even at the 21st-pick range, there are some great options at quarterback.

The top four quarterbacks — Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trey Lance — won't be there at 21, while Alabama's Mac Jones might not be, either. If the Colts want one of the top five passers in the draft, they'll certainly have to trade up. Jones would be the most likely candidate of the five as he'd be the cheapest to trade up for. 

While a rookie quarterback wouldn’t give the Colts the best chance of winning a Super Bowl in 2021, it gives them a scary look in the future. Running back Jonathan Taylor, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., and a young talented offensive line to go along with one of 2021’s best rookie quarterbacks would make for a scary offense in a couple of years, assuming that quarterback pans out.

3. Carson Wentz

Back in December, Indianapolis felt like the most likely landing spot for Carson Wentz

The former No. 2 pick struggled so much in Philadelphia that he was benched for Jalen Hurts, reportedly requested a trade and had a falling out with then-coach Doug Pederson. 

But it appears Wentz won his power trip as the Eagles made it clear in coaching interviews that they wanted to fix Wentz rather than deal him. 

With that being said, Wentz could easily be available if Wentz continues to struggle this offseason and the Eagles decide to go with Hurts. 

Wentz would then be able to team back up with Reich, who coached Wentz to his most successful season. 

2. Matthew Stafford

The Colts might not trade for Watson or Wentz, but there are still other options that would be more than serviceable in 2021. Matthew Stafford has been one of the best and most underrated quarterbacks in recent memory, despite playing on one of the worst franchises in that time span.

Even though he will turn 33 in February, Stafford still has plenty of gas left in the tank. Since becoming a regular starter, Stafford has played in all 16 regular season games nine of 10 seasons. 

Stafford, who isn't currently available, might want to pull a Watson and want out of Detroit if they're going into another rebuild under coach Dan Campbell. 

It would likely cost the No. 21 pick and more, but Stafford would immediately upgrade this offense and put the Colts in a position to be an AFC superpower. 

1. Sam Darnold 

The Jets are saying all the right things now, but there's no guarantee that New York will bring back Darnold with a new coaching staff that has no loyalty to him. 

Whether it was coach Adam Gase's fault or not, Darnold has been a massive disappointment in his career. And with a stacked QB class incoming, the Jets would be smart to draft a QB at No. 2 and trade Darnold to a team that feels like they can develop the former No. 3 pick. 

And there isn't a better place for Darnold to go than Indianapolis. He would immediately become Reich's reclamation project, and, if he realizes his potential, he'd be the Colts' franchise quarterback for the next decade-plus. 

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