Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay played a prominent role in the team’s coaching search, staying involved in one of the longest processes in recent memory. As the 2023 NFL Draft draws closer, Irsay is once again involved in a decision that will shape the team’s future.
Holding the fourth overall pick in the first round, Indianapolis has made its intentions clear this offseason. Irsay and general manager Chris Ballard want a franchise-caliber quarterback who can lead the club for years to come. At one point, Irsay made his interest in Bryce Young public and Ballard indicated he would do ‘whatever it takes‘ to land a new face of the franchise.
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However, Indianapolis is now in a challenging position with less than a month until draft night. The Carolina Panthers traded up for the first pick, putting two teams with plans to draft a quarterback ahead of the Colts. Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals are fielding offers for the third overall selection and the clubs expressing the most interest are eying quarterbacks.
It raises the possibility of Indianapolis being backed into a situation where it has to settle for the fourth-best quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft, However, the sudden availability of quarterback Lamar Jackson has provided the franchise with a high-end alternative.
As draft day nears, with the Baltimore Ravens publicly stating their interest in the quarterback class, Indianapolis could use its first-round picks to acquire the 26-year-old NFL star. However, it seems Irsay has a preference for exactly what path he wants Ballard to take.
Colts’ reporter Zak Keefer wrote for The Athletic that Irsay prefers to draft a quarterback over acquiring Jackson, citing the cost associated with a quarterback on a rookie contract versus one of the highest-paid NFL players.
“The owner wants the draft-and-develop route, preferring the chance to grow his own while capitalizing on the financial flexibility a young quarterback’s contract affords the team…it’s the lost draft capital (two first-round picks) and salary-cap restrictions that have tempered Irsay’s interest in such a blockbuster move.”Zak Keefer of The Athletic on Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay
It’s reasonable for Irsay to prefer the quarterback on a team-friendly deal. The Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals are recent examples of how much easier it is to build a championship-caliber roster around a quarterback on a rookie contract.
However, Irsay’s preference is also betting on the Colts accurately evaluating the quarterback class and successfully developing him into a high-end starter. Considering this same front office traded a first-round pick for Carson Wentz, bailed on him a year later and traded a third-round pick for Matt Ryan, the track record doesn’t suggest the process will yield the right result.
Indianapolis could also be drafting the quarterback that the rest of the NFL effectively viewed as the fourth-best player at his position. For a team that is also weak along the offensive line and is thin at wide receiver, it would automatically put that unproven quarterback into a challenging situation.
Ultimately, Irsay will likely get what he wants this offseason with the Colts expected to spend the fourth overall pick on a quarterback. If the move doesn’t work out, Irsay will likely search for a new general manager in 2024.