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INDIANAPOLIS – Back to the drawing board.

In many ways, Matthew Stafford seemed like the best and most realistic veteran quarterback option for the Colts to achieve what Jim Irsay is seeking out.

Now, other ideas must be explored at the most important position in sports.

If the Colts are going outside their building for a starting QB in 2021, where do they now turn?

For now, we will only focus on current NFL quarterbacks, staying away from any of the 2021 rookie class:

 

Free Agents

-Andy Dalton (Cowboys): If you are wanting ‘veteran vision’ with playoff experience, Dalton would check that aspect. Of course, Dalton is 0-4 in the postseason with awful individual numbers in the playoffs and has hovered around 60 percent as a passer in his 30s (Dalton is 34 years old). In 2020 with the Cowboys, Dalton was 4-5 as a starter in replacing the injured Dak Prescott.

-Ryan Fitzpatrick (Dolphins): Is it time for the 38-year-old Harvard product to play for his 9th NFL team (7th in the AFC)? When called upon in spot duty, Fitzpatrick has spurred some magic. But we are still talking about a quarterback with a career record of 59-86-1, and someone who has completed just 60.7 percent of his passes.

-Cam Newton (Patriots): The 1-year Newton deal in New England was not a success. Newton stayed healthy, but the Patriots offense lacked potency. One issue that comes with the 31-year-old Newton is having to re-tool your offense to cater his strengths, first as a runner, then as a passer.

-Dak Prescott (Cowboys): Easily the most attractive free agent name in 2021, Prescott is widely assumed to return to the Cowboys—by franchise tag, if a long-term deal is not achieved. Prescott, 27, is coming off a serious ankle injury, but he would still be above anyone else on the open market list, if he were to hit FA. Again, the Cowboys are expected to bring him back.

-Mitchell Trubisky (Bears): The rookie contract has run out for the No. 2 overall pick in 2017. Trubisky was 29-21 as a starter in Chicago, completing 64 percent of his passes, while tossing 64 touchdowns and 37 interceptions. Surprisingly, there are some intriguing individual numbers from Trubisky, but concerns over where he’s at mentally are worrisome.

-Jameis Winston (Saints): First, with Drew Brees likely heading for retirement, the expectation is the Saints will have an available starting job. Wouldn’t Winston be the favorite for that? Or is Taysom Hill a serious long-term option? Winston offers big play potential, but the 30 interceptions he threw in 2019 (compared to 12 by Tom Brady in the same offense) will scare suitors. Winston has a 3.4 interception percentage rate in his career, which is the worst for any NFL QB in the last decade.

 

Potential Trade Options

-Teddy Bridgewater (Panthers): Are the Panthers ready to move on from Bridgewater after just one season? Carolina reportedly offered the No. 8 overall pick to acquire Matthew Stafford. Bridgewater signed a 3-year, $63 million deal with the Panthers in the 2019 offseason. While Bridgewater is just 28 years old, cap hits of nearly $23 and $26 million remain on his contract. He completed 69 percent of his passes, with a yards per attempt of 7.6. Those are nice numbers. But the Panthers went just 4-11 in Bridgewater’s 15 starts, tossing 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

-Derek Carr (Raiders): There’s been hardly any inkling to Carr being on the trade market. But you never know with the Raiders. Carr has had a couple of really solid seasons under Jon Gruden, but the Raiders have yet to turn it into a postseason appearance. Car, who turns 30 next month, has two years left on his current contract, with cap hits of right around $20 million. If the Raiders start to dangle Carr’s name, he has the makeup of someone that would generate interest.

-Sam Darnold (Jets): Similar to Trubisky, the Jets could be parting ways with their former top-5 pick, who is still on his rookie contract. With the Jets having the No. 2 overall pick come April, they are sitting in a terrific position to select a new franchise quarterback. Does that mean the 23-year-old Darnold is on the trade block? Under two different coaches, Darnold has gone 13-25 as a starter, completing 59.8 percent of his passes with a 6.6 yards per attempt number. There’s been flashes from Darnold but he’s also not looked ready for the moment, throwing 9 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 12 starts this year (2-10 record). Darnold has just one year left on his rookie contract, with a 5th year option that can be picked up for the 2022 season.

-Nick Foles (Bears): Many believe if Philip Rivers wasn’t under center for the Colts in 2020, it would have been Foles. The history/affinity with Foles and Frank Reich is well documented. Foles was 2-5 as a reserve starter for the Bears last season, completing 64.7 percent of his passes with a yards per attempt of 5.9. In 2020, the Bears reconstructed Foles’ contract to a 3-year, $24 million deal. Foles, 32, had the magical Super Bowl run with Reich in the 2017 season. In his career, Foles is 28-27 as a starter, having completing 62.3 percent of his passes for 5 different teams

-Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers): With Matthew Stafford going to a different NFC West team, there’s no clear answers to the 49ers making a move at quarterback. They do have the 12th overall pick in April. Garoppolo, 29, has two years remaining on his current contract, with a cap hit of around $26.5 million each of the next two years. Injuries have been the story for Jimmy G, as he’s started in just 30 games in 4 seasons with the 49ers. Garoppolo is 24-8 as a starter and has been to a Super Bowl. He’s completed 67.5 percent of his passes and a yards per attempt of 8.2. Similar to Carr, there hasn’t been much on this trade front.

-Matt Ryan (Falcons): Sitting with the No. 4 overall pick, the Falcons have a big decision to make with their long-time QB. Ryan, 35, has three years remaining on a contract, that carries a massive cap hit (north of $40 million each of the next two years). Even though the Falcons haven’t had a winning season in three years, Ryan’s numbers have still been pretty solid. Acquiring him though gives you an aging, although durable, quarterback with a huge financial responsibility.

-Deshaun Watson (Texans): Lol.

-Carson Wentz (Eagles): The Frank Reich/Wentz connection is a reason why this one carries a little added weight. Reich has never shied away from his love for Wentz. Of course, the Eagles did just hire Nick Sirianni to possibly try and resurrect the 28-year-old QB. Wentz is coming off a horrible season. He completed 57.4 percent of his passes, had 16 touchdowns/15 interceptions and was sacked 50 times. Wentz is under contract through 2024 with an annual cap hit of more than $30 million. Would a team trading for Wentz get some draft pick compensation, too (a la Detroit for Jared Goff)? The Eagles have Jalen Hurts in waiting and the 7th overall pick, so those are things to keep in mind if Sirianni and Philly decides Wentz is no longer the answer.