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INDIANAPOLIS – No 2021 free agent for the Colts has as many layers to his future as Jacoby Brissett.

With Philip Rivers retiring, is Brissett’s knowledge of Frank Reich’s system enough for him to return as the starter?

If the Colts decide they need to go outside of the building for their new starter at QB, do they value Brissett enough to try and convince him to stay in Indy as the backup?

Does Brissett look at his situation in Indy as ‘it’s time to move on,’ seeking out a better opportunity to start?

And any team is negotiating with just Brissett, as he represents himself in contract talks.

Brissett, 28, heads into his first free agency as a pro with 32 career starts (49 games played). He’s completed 59.6 percent of his passes, tossing 31 touchdowns, 13 interceptions with a quarterback rating of 84.1

Under Chris Ballard, the Colts have turned to Brissett to be their starting quarterback on two separate occasions.

Injuries/retirement contributed to Brissett being thrust into those starting seasons (2017 and 2019).

Following that 2019 season, the Colts opted to sign 38-year-old quarterback Philip Rivers for one season than try Brissett for another season.

Was that a sign of what they thought about Brissett’s future as a Colts starter?

If the Colts truly believed that Brissett could grow with more playing experience, wouldn’t they have stuck with him last season to further his development and have a possible long-term piece under center?

Nevertheless, Brissett’s name is someone that has to be factored into the Colts potential ’21 plans for a couple of reasons.

First, Chris Ballard has said as much, and that was before and after Rivers informed the Colts of his plans to retire.

“I don’t want to discount Jacoby,” Ballard said, unprompted, back in January. “We still like Jacoby Brissett. We think he’s a good player. So let’s not completely take Jacoby out of the mix here.”

Unlike Jim Irsay, Ballard has gone out of his to praise Brissett this offseason.

Is this the GM feeling bad for the tone and comments he made about Brissett last year (when he said “the jury was still out,” a comment he has publicly said was out of line) or is this legit interest in bringing back the QB who knows Frank Reich’s system the best?

“We like Jacoby,” Ballard reiterated on Friday with Dan Dakich. “He will be in the mix (to re-sign and/or play). We have to let that play out and work out how it should.”

A former third-round pick, Brissett has always been bullish on his ability to be a permanent starter in this league.

“I still believe in myself,” Brissett said back before the start of the 2020 campaign, when he served as the backup to Rivers. “I know I am a starter in this league. I know I can play at a very high level, I did it last year.”

For Brissett, with his desire again of being a starter, he must gauge where his best opportunity would come.

Would a return to New England make sense, playing under the head coach and offensive coordinator that drafted him in the 3rd round back in 2016?

Are there open competitions possibly in other spots? Washington? Chicago? New Orleans?

What about here in Indianapolis?

“We think he’s a starter in this league,” Ballard said of Brissett last offseason. “Jacoby is continuing to get better and he will continue to get better.

“I know Jacoby has taken some hits, but some of them are unfair, and maybe some of them were unfair by me. I might not have used the right words at times. I think you all understand how I feel about this young man. He’s a special kid. He’s a valuable member of the Colts. We’re lucky to have Jacoby Brissett.”

Calling Brissett a high-level backup is more than accurate.

But projecting him as a starter in this league, based off what we’ve seen in those 30 starts, wouldn’t be.

The Colts are in the market for a backup, too, with Brissett a free agent and the staff not totally comfortable with the idea of having Jacob Eason in that role just yet.

Are the Colts hoping to have Brissett as their backup again in 2021, or do they (or another team) view him as something more?

“I know I’ll be a starter in this league one day again,” Brissett said last offseason, “wherever that may be.”