INDIANAPOLIS – They are (or potentially are) available for a reason.
As we look at the murky free agency/trade quarterback situation for teams needing one this offseason, there are a quartet of QBs who former franchises thought was their guy at some point. Now, it sounds like they will be heading elsewhere.
Let’s take a look at how much intrigue/concern the Colts should have in going after these guys:
Carson Wentz (Age: 28, under contract through 2024, No. 2 overall pick in 2016)
Intrigue: No realistic quarterback candidate for the Colts this offseason has played at as high of a NFL level as Wentz. In 2017, with Frank Reich as his offensive coordinator, Wentz was the MVP of the league until he tore his ACL in December of that season. To that point, Wentz and the Eagles were 11-2 with the quarterback throwing 33 touchdowns to 7 interceptions. Wentz returned and played at above average quarterback level in 2018 and 2019, too. He’s thrown 113 touchdowns to 50 interceptions, in 68 career starts (35-32-1). Along with ’17, the most appealing aspect of Wentz to the Colts comes with his familiarity under Reich. That connection is driving the Colts’ interest in the No. 2 overall pick from 2016.
Worry: It starts with the rock bottom season for Wentz in 2020. He completed 57.9 percent of his passes, threw 16 touchdowns to 15 interceptions and had a quarterback rating of 72.8. There’s questions from Philly in how Wentz handled coaching last year. The fact that the Eagles franchise is prepared to part ways with him less than 2 years after giving him a massive, franchise altering, contract is scary. Acquiring Wentz would cost some combination of premium draft picks and would mean a likely commitment of at least two years, given his contract guarantees. Based off what Wentz showed last season, getting him back to the level of player seen four years ago seems like a longshot.
Marcus Mariota (Age: 27, under contract through 2021, No. 2 overall pick in 2015)
Intrigue: In 64 games as a starter, the TD/INT ratio (77 to 45) of Mariota is a pretty clear positive. In four of Mariota’s 5 seasons in Tennessee, he finished with a quarterback rating of better than 90. There’s a mobile aspect to Mariota’s game that makes him attractive, too. He’s the only player on this list to have won a playoff game, and that came on the road.
Worry: Obviously, Mariota hasn’t come close to living up to No. 2 pick hype. Fans of the Colts probably are even more scared of Mariota due to his 2-5 career record against Indy. One franchise (Tennessee) without a long-term quarterback answer (at the time) has already said goodbye to Mariota. We are also now 6 years into Mariota’s career, begging the question of how much more is there in trying to mold is his skillset. Is he now a permanent backup in the NFL? To get Mariota, some trade of a middle-ish round pick would need to be sent to Las Vegas.
Mitchell Trubisky (Age: 26, free agent, No. 2 overall pick in 2017)
Intrigue: You can debate how much Trubisky has influenced this, but he does have a 21-13 record as a starter in his last three years. Individually, he’s shown some strides since a very shaky rookie season. But he’s lacked the consistent efficiency in the passing offense finding success to create plays down the field. Of all the guys on this list, the fact that Trubisky is a free agent makes the thought of bringing him in, with no draft picks needed to be sent for him, easier to stomach.
Worry: Similar to a guy like Mariota though with Tennessee, you have a franchise in the Bears apparently ready to move on from their No. 2 overall pick in 2017, even without any answer at QB moving forward. In analyzing Trubisky at the NFL level, there are questions about his ability to make timely progressions under duress. For Frank Reich especially, something like that would be a major concern. Trubisky started for just one season in college, so was this just a misevaluation for NFL teams?
Sam Darnold (Age: 24, under contract through 2021 + team option available for 2022, No. 2 overall pick in 2018)
Intrigue: Part of the curiosity with Darnold is the fact that the circumstances around him (multiple coaching staffs, constant offensive personnel issues, etc.) has not been favorable for developing a young quarterback. Plus, what Ryan Tannehill did away from Adam Gase has people thinking Darnold could have better moments elsewhere. Darnold did go 7-6 as a starter in 2019 and can make plays outside of the pocket with his legs.
Worry: It’s not often you see a 23-year-old quarterback, who was a former top-five pick, available for trade this early in his career. So, that’s concerning. It’s no secret the Jets have had tons of dysfunction recently. How much of that has contributed to Darnold going 13-25 as a starter, completing 59.8 percent of his passes and have a quarterback rating of 78.6? In Darnold’s three years as a starter, his teams have entered the month of December with records of 3-8, 4-7, 0-11. He has yet to experience any stretch of winning, and the expectations that come with that and/or playoff-type pressure atmospheres for big-time regular season games, let alone the actual postseason.
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