Skip to main content

With the Manning and Luck eras over, where do the Colts go from here?

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

After starting this past season with a 5-2 record, the Indianapolis Colts fell off the map in a big way. They lost seven of their final nine games en route to finishing third in the AFC South. 

The season started with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck shockingly announcing his retirement. Indy then locked up backup Jacoby Brissett on what was, on the surface, a long-term deal

Now heading into the offseason, there’s renewed questions about Brissett’s future in Indy under head coach Frank Reich. With the team in the post-Luck and Manning era, what must the Colts do moving forward to once again become relevant on the broader NFL stage?

It’s about the quarterback, stupid: It should not come as a surprise that it starts and ends with Brissett under center. The Colts reportedly don’t believe he’s the long-term solution at quarterback. 

  • That’s where this gets interesting. Indy signed Brissett to a two-year, $30 million extension shortly after Luck’s retirement. The team had seemingly committed to the quarterback for two seasons. 
  • Not so fast. Said contract called for an out after the 2019 season with an ability to save about $10 million against the cap. This enabled the Colts to see what they had in Brissett in 2019 and move on from him if need be. 
  • Brissett started the season strong. But after suffering a knee injury, he fell completely off the map. This coincided with the Colts’ struggles in the second half of the season. 

First seven starts: 64.8% completion, 14 TD, 3 INT, 99.7 rating

Final seven starts: 56.4% completion, 4 TD, 3 INT, 75.0 rating

This seems to suggest that Brissett is no longer the long-term solution in Indy as the organization has reportedly soured on him. If that is the case, what must the Colts do this offseason to find a solution at quarterback and add to a roster with multiple holes?

Trade Brissett: Despite his relatively lofty $21.375 million cap hit for the 2020 season, Brissett seems to be a tradable commodity. The Colts would likely get something for him.

  • By my estimation, as many as 10 NFL teams will be looking for new quarterbacks this coming March. The market will be there should Indy look to move Brissett.
  • It would be as much about moving Brissett’s contract without a dead cap hit as it would be about receiving a ton back in return.
  • Moving Brissett to say the Redskins or Bengals for a mid-round pick could make sense for general manager Chris Ballard and the Colts.

Add a stopgap veteran option: The free-agent and trade markets will be plentiful for quarterback-needy teams once the spring comes calling.

  • Tom Brady: Indianapolis has been linked to this six-time Super Bowl champion more than any other team in the NFL. If Brady were to leave the Pats, he makes a ton of sense as a stop-gap option for the Colts.
  • Philip Rivers: Yet another potential future Hall of Fame quarterback who has been linked to the Colts, it sure looks like Rivers will leave the Chargers in free agency. If so, he makes a lot of sense, too.
  • Cam Newton: Indy could use the pick(s) it acquires in the hypothetical Brissett trade as part of a package to entice the Panthers into trading the former NFL MVP. Reports suggest that Carolina plans on doing just that in March.

Draft a quarterback in Round 2: While we have the Colts going a different direction in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, they could look quarterback later.

  • Indianapolis has two second-round picks in the coming draft, including the valuable 34th overall selection. This gives the team a real chance to land a potential future franchise signal caller.
  • Heck, the Colts could potentially package their two second-round picks in a trade up scenario for someone like Jalen Hurts. He’s quickly rising the draft boards.
  • If Indy were to stand pat, Washington’s Jacob Eason and Georgia’s Jake Fromm could also make sense.

A couple veteran free-agent options: We’re obviously not talking about Indianapolis tearing it down. The team still has a ton of talent and could contend for the AFC South title with the right mix in 2020.

  • Spotrac projects the Colts will have north of $90 million to spend in free agency, the second-largest sum in the NFL. That’s going to help matters as it relates to adding top-end talent.
  • The needs are vast and glaring on both sides of the ball for Indy. Getting a No. 2 receiver behind T.Y. Hilton is chief among them. Someone like Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green makes sense. If the Colts really wanted to make an imprint, maybe chase after Pro Bowl receiver Amari Cooper.
  • Defensively, we’d love to see the Colts add more talent to the secondary, specifically at corner. The team could entice Byron Jones or Chris Harris Jr. to take lucrative shorter-term deals. A trade for Lions Pro Bowler Darius Slay might be in the cards, too.

Bottom line

Indianapolis remains in position to contend for a playoff spot in 2020. If the team were to hang on to Brissett, that wouldn’t necessarily change things.

Even then, improvement has to be the name of the game for Chris Ballard and Co. It could very well start at quarterback.

If the Colts were to add someone like Brady, Rivers or Newton and team him up with a pair of solid receivers, contention would be the name of the game in 2020.