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Indianapolis Colts might have a new backup quarterback with Sam Ehlinger’s emergence

Sam Ehlinger

The Indianapolis Colts ended last season with Sam Ehlinger as their backup quarterback. After they traded away Carson Wentz, there was a period of time where it looked like the team might have Ehlinger be the starter. Then they traded for Matt Ryan, and the rest is history.

It appeared that Ehlinger would be Ryan’s direct backup. This would be a great opportunity for Ehlinger to study under Ryan. Then the Colts brought in Nick “Dice ‘em Up” Foles. Which, for some fans was a bit odd.

For others, it was a good, smart move. Basically, you are either someone who feels that a veteran backup quarterback is valuable or someone who thinks a veteran backup quarterback isn’t worth spending money on. Remember how former Colts general manager Bill Polian operated with Peyton Manning?

I fall in line with the Polian method. A franchise quarterback is incredibly hard to find and if you don’t have one then you’re always searching for one. Now, if you have a franchise QB and he gets hurt well, then you just might be lucky enough to get the first overall pick in the next year’s draft. So for me, current Colts GM Chris Ballard should have let Sam be the backup to Ryan.

Not to mention, there is enough tape on Foles to know what there is with him. Subsequently, there isn’t any NFL game tape on Ehlinger. Well, there is preseason NFL film on him. And speaking of the preseason, Ehlinger is looking incredibly great this year. Much better than he did last season. Which, to a degree, is to be expected.

  • Sam Ehlinger – 19/22, 224 yards, 86.4% completion, 4 TDs, 112 yards per game, 4 sacks
  • Nick Foles – 12/17, 128 yards, 70.6% completion, 1 TD, 1 INT, 64 yards per game, 1 sack

Through the first two preseason games, Ehlinger has looked much better than Foles. There is one caveat that needs to be mentioned. The preseason games aren’t typically scripted. They are a bit more “backyard football” style, compared to a regular season game. This does suit Ehlinger better than Foles. Ehlinger is more mobile and better able to improvise and create something off-script.

The greater need to improvise during the preseason helps accentuate Ehlinger’s strengths while not drawing attention to his weaknesses. Ehlinger doesn’t have a strong arm or is very accurate throwing deep. However, he does seem to find ways to win. Whether that’s winning games or winning drives. He just seems to find a way to make positive things happen.

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Sam Ehlinger fueling upcoming QB dilemma

So, do the Colts have a backup quarterback controversy brewing? Foles is the more expensive of the two and the team has yet to come to terms with left guard Quenton Nelson. Might the team cut Foles to save some money to use in extending Nelson? Not likely, as Foles comes with a $4 million dead cap hit. Whereas Ehlinger comes with only a $98K dead cap hit.

So, since cutting either player is a viable option, that leaves only two options. One of them is the Colts keeping both on the 53-man roster. Putting Ehlinger on the practice squad is a gamble as it allows another club to come and pluck him. The other option is trading one of them. As previously stated, the NFL knows all about Foles’ ability. Subsequently, not everyone knows about Ehlinger’s ceiling. 

Related: Lack of Quenton Nelson extension providing cause for concern for Indianapolis Colts

QB needy teams

It’s possible Ehlinger brings back the higher return in a trade package. There aren’t many NFL teams out there that need a backup. However, there are at least five teams that might have some interest in “Slinging” Sam.

Carolina Panthers – This past offseason, they were heavily interested in Deshaun Watson. No, Ehlinger isn’t anywhere close to the same level of talent as Watson. However, this club hasn’t had a franchise QB since Cam Newton’s MVP season. They are also all about acquiring QBs who could be a stable winning signal caller.

Either New York teams – The New York Giants didn’t pick up Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option. They have a new head coach and GM who didn’t draft Jones. So there is no loyalty present. Also, backup Tyrod Taylor has been rumored to be playing better than Jones. 

As for the Jets, Zach Wilson has only strengthened the concern about his abilities to be a franchise QB. Currently, out with an injury the club has turned to former Super Bowl winner Joe Flacco to be their starter. Both of these teams could decide they like Ehlinger’s skill set and ability to find success is more desirable than the QB’s on their roster.

New Orleans Saints – This team has been able to make some magic with their money to have enough money to keep their team in good enough shape to compete. However, this is another team that doesn’t have a long-term answer at their QB spot. At this point, it’s still TBD if Jameis Winston’s ‘21 season success can be sustained over the course of a full season. If Winston shows a return to the play of his infamous 30/30 season might the team be more attracted to Ehlinger?

Seattle Seahwks – The roster with arguably the worst quarterback room in the NFL. Neither Geno Smith nor Drew Lock inspires a lot of long-term confidence. And it’s quite possible the team decides to move on from both of these guys fairly early into the season. With the style of play that Pete Carroll likes to play and the talent on the roster, Ehlinger could thrive in the Pacific Northwest.

All this is to say that Ehlinger has come a really long way in his short time with the Colts. How the team proceeds with their QBs, will be interesting to watch.

Related: 4 Indianapolis Colts players to watch this preseason

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