The Indianapolis Colts have been teasing a big move at quarterback for a week now, ever since arriving at the NFL Scouting Combine at its home stadium and talking about making a headline-grabbing move at quarterback.
The Colts accomplished that mission on Wednesday, but not exactly in the way they intended. Or at least, not yet. In order to clear the deck for a possible blockbuster move to bring in a top-tier quarterback, the Colts made the obvious move on the other side of the equation, trading incumbent starter and 2021 disappointment Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders.
The Colts are now, for the moment, without a starting quarterback in 2022. That will undoubtedly change shortly. And if the Colts really want to make the splashy move they so confidently predicted last week, there is a quarterback available that the Colts are more than a little familiar with who could be their answer.
Watson is now the top option, but would the Texans trade within the division?
On Friday, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson should learn his fate in a court of law. A grand jury in Harris County, Texas, will hear evidence and testimony in cases of sexual assault, indecent assault, assault and harassment, all stemming from 22 criminal and civil complaints made against Watson, which led to him not playing a single snap for the Texans in 2021.
If the grand jury votes not to indict, Watson would likely be allowed to play in 2022, even with civil lawsuits ongoing. That would open a floodgate of offers from other teams still searching for a quarterback upgrade, and the Colts, who were already on that short list, now have even greater urgency to make a deal.
But would the Texans, who nearly had a deal with the Miami Dolphins last October and will almost certainly get a call from the Seattle Seahawks, who acquired several first-round picks in the Russell Wilson trade Tuesday, be willing to move Watson within the AFC South?
The Colts swapped a second-round pick in the 2022 Draft with the Commanders and added a third-rounder, but that pales in comparison to the offer Seattle might be willing to make, and the Texans would probably prefer to ship Watson out of the AFC entirely.
And if the Colts fail to land Watson, it is yet another swing-and-miss for a team that talked last week fo “swinging big.”
Colts said they were ‘swinging big’ at QB, but so far have struck out looking
Entering the Combine, the Colts seemed confident they had what it would take to land one of the two biggest quarterbacks said to be available on the trade market. Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson had been agitating for a change of scenery, and the Colts were betting Indianapolis would be the destination they were looking for.
Reports indicated that Colts owner Jay Irsay had become particularly enamored with Wilson, but that coming up with an offer the Seattle Seahawks would find appealing, especially considering the Colts had traded away the 16th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Wentz last season, was a challenge the Colts would struggle to overcome.
Sure enough, within hours of the Green Bay Packers announcing it had signed Rodgers to a multi-year deal, the Seahawks did trade Wilson, but to the Denver Broncos for a slew of draft picks the Colts would never have been able to match.
And just like that, the big-swinging Colts had two strikes against them. Can Watson salvage their offseason, or are the Colts about to hit strike three?
Garappolo, Goff and Winston likely head the list of “Plan D” candidates
Whatever the Colts do at the quarterback front, it is not going to come from the draft. Because they shipped their first-round pick to the Eagles to acquire Wentz in the first place, the Colts are left with no first-rounder this year and will miss out on the only two quarterbacks deemed ready to start right away: Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett and Liberty’s Malik Willis.
That means, should the Watson trade not materialize, the Colts are left either making a deal with the San Francisco 49ers for Jimmy Garoppolo or perhaps doing the Detroit Lions a favor and take Jared Goff’s ugly remaining contract off their hands.
Then there’s free agency, which begins in less than a week. Some have pointed to Teddy Bridgewater as a solid fit for the Colts’ system, but the biggest name is probably Jameis Winston, who looked like his career had turned a positive corner with the Saints before tearing his ACL on Halloween last season.
A healthy and mature Winston has a chance to be a breakout star in 2022, but without costing a fortune coming off his injury.
It’s not exactly the big swing the Colts here hoping to make, but it’s better than striking out.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference