The Indianapolis Colts just got a close-hand look at quarterback draft prospects during the NFL combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Among those prospects were three different quarterbacks: C.J. Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson. Bryce Young was also in attendance for measurements and interviews but did not participate in any workouts.
Along with the Colts, the Panthers are among the teams evaluating QBs at the combine. In the upcoming draft, Indianapolis currently holds the No. 4 pick, while the Panthers have No. 9. Both teams have been rumored to trade up to No. 1 (owned by the Chicago Bears).
With the draft less than two months away, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah believes the Colts and Panthers each need to attempt to trade with the Bears to select a quarterback.
“Indy & Carolina both need to identify the QB prospect they want & do what it takes to move up & get him,” Jeremiah tweeted. “I don’t think patience is your friend right now with so many QB needy teams out there. Bears can issue a buy now price for that pick & I believe one of these 2 will pay it.”
Jeremiah’s thoughts came just hours after NBC Sports’ Peter King wrote that the Colts and Panthers are the lead aggressors in trading up to No. 1. Bears general manager Ryan Poles told King he believe he can receive valuable draft capital if the first overall pick is dealt.
“No one’s gonna rush me,” Poles said to King. “I know I can get a ’24 one (first-round pick) and a ’25 one [in return]. You’re telling me for the next two years I’ll have two ones? That’s either four really good players, or if we’re cruising, we can still trade back.”
More of King’s Thoughts on Colts, Panthers Trading Up
With the Colts and Panthers labeled as “aggressors” in the pursuit of a potential draft trade, King broke down each team’s scenario this offseason.
He said the Colts’ front office is under pressure, which could lead to a potential draft “overpay” for a quarterback.
“The Colts have had a different starting quarterback five years in a row, and haven’t won a playoff game in the last four seasons,” King wrote. “GM Chris Ballard is under the gun, and he knows it. I think if he falls in love with one of the top passers, he’ll overpay for him.”
Ballard has historically erred on the side of caution when handling his draft picks. Since he arrived in Indianapolis in 2017, he has not traded up during the first round to select a player.
His biggest draft trade, however, was in 2020. That’s when Indianapolis traded the No. 13 pick to the San Francisco 49ers for All-Pro defensive tackle DeForest Buckner.
On the other side of the race for the No. 1 pick, King thinks the Panthers could be “even more desperate” in their pursuit of a rookie QB.
“The [Panthers] owner, David Tepper, has made it clear internally he wants a long-term answer at quarterback, and he wants it now,” King wrote. “Indianapolis wouldn’t have to trade as much as Carolina for the pick, because it’d be moving up three spots.”
The Panthers currently hold the No. 9 pick in the draft. In addition to current and future draft capital, the team would likely have to give up a slew of players in order to obtain the No. 1 selection.
Colts LB Drawing Attention in Free Agency
Before the Colts even get to the draft, they still have to address free agency. One of their top unrestricted free agents this offseason is Bobby Okereke, who reportedly has the attention of several teams.
According to The Score’s Jordan Schultz, the Bears and Panthers are two teams in the running to sign Okereke.
A third-round pick out of Stanford in 2019, Okereke has played four full NFL seasons. His most productive was in 2022 when he put up 151 total tackles, two forced fumbles and five passes defended.
Schultz also reported that Okereke could receive a deal in the range of $12 to $14 million. Okereke’s improved play in 2022 helped his market value increase.