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INDIANAPOLISWhat Gardner Minshew wants in 2024 is not something the Colts can offer.

Anthony Richardson is the starting quarterback in Indianapolis.

An injury to Richardson is the only thing that will change that plan.

Minshew wants to start.

While that guarantee might not be something another NFL team will unquestionably offer, more realistic playing time opportunities will certainly be available at other stops come free agency.

The Colts were very grateful for Minshew’s presence this past year, but they also understand the two-way nature that comes in free agency, especially when it comes to this specific case.

“Of course Gardner wants to be a starter,” Chris Ballard says.

“That’s what his makeup is. Sam (Ehlinger) is the same way. You wouldn’t want it any other way. Jacoby (Brissett) was that way. They want to be the guy, I get it. They’re competitive and it’s hard for them to accept somebody telling them, ‘Hey, you’re the two.’ This is what’s great about Gardner – he was the (No. 2 quarterback), knew he was the two, but he continued to work like he was the one and then also help (Richardson) like he was the one. That’s a special quality.

“He’s a tremendous young man, good player. Thank God we had him.”

There’s no denying Minshew is one of the more higher-end backups in the league.

Assuming he gets a decently compensated offer where the starting QB job is not as entrenched as it is in Indy with Richardson, one would think Minshew will be departing.

Even if Minshew wants to return to familiar face Shane Steichen and the Colts, if the asking price rises to a certain mark, Ballard might have to ponder if handing out such a deal is the wisest move, with plenty of items on the off-season checklist.

Having said that, the backup quarterback position has to be viewed as one of need. It’s a need to continue to help Richardson with his development. And also to potentially help out the Colts in case of Richardson getting hurt.

You won’t hear anything different than that from Ballard.

“The backup quarterback is going to be very important,” the 7th year GM says. “I think we saw that (in 2023). I can’t understate the value of what Gardner brought to this team. He gave us a chance to win each and every way, gave us hope, a chance to win, fun guy to be around. Guys believe in him.

“That’s the one thing, likeability and belief are two things that are – when they believe and think that the quarterback, you have a chance to win, that’s important. Grateful for Gardner and what he was able to do. I don’t want to underestimate the value of the two either.”

In going 7-6 as a starter, Minshew helped keep the Colts ship afloat.

By no means was Minshew perfect—at times performing below his normal standard—but he also stepped up at other moments, giving the Colts a playoff chance until the season finale.

“I did the best I could this year leading this team,” Minshew said at the end of the ’23 season. “There were times I could’ve done better. Obviously, wish we could’ve got in the playoffs and all. But man, I think there was a lot of good. I think we found ways to scrap and claw and win games.

“I’m proud of what I did this year, what we did this year. Who knows how it will all shake out?”

And how it will shake it out is going to have some domino effect on life behind Richardson in 2024.

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