The Indianapolis Colts are still searching for who will be their quarterback during the 2022 season. Who starts behind center in Indianapolis could depend on what happens with Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Plenty of rumors have also targeted Indianapolis as a trade partner for the San Francisco 49ers if the 49ers elect to deal Jimmy Garoppolo.
But former NFL general manager and Heavy’s NFL front officer insider Randy Mueller says there’s another potential factor in Indianapolis’ quarterback search.
“I find it hard to believe that Chris Ballard would not have a plan of attack in his pocket before he pulled the trigger on Carson Wentz,” Mueller said. “I would think Marcus Mariota has to factor in now that Mitch Trubisky is out of the pool.”
Colts general manager Chris Ballard traded Wentz with two draft picks to the Washington Commanders for multiple draft selections on March 9.
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Marcus Mariota to the Colts?
The 2014 Heisman Trophy winner entered the NFL as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. But after posting a 29-32 record, including a 2-4 mark in 2019, he lost his starting job to Ryan Tannehill.
Another former Top 10 pick who struggled during his first few seasons in the NFL, Tannehill never relinquished the starting role in Tennessee back to Mariota. In 2020, Mariota signed as a backup to Derek Carr with the Las Vegas Raiders.
Over the last two seasons, Mariota attempted 30 passes, completing 18 of them for 230 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Las Vegas used him more as a gadget player in 2020 and 2021. Mariota averaged 8.0 yards per carry and scored two touchdowns on 22 rushes the past two years.
Mitchell Trubisky, who is also a former No. 2 overall pick, signed a two-year deal to join the Pittsburgh Steelers. Other top free agent candidate quarterbacks Tyrod Taylor and Teddy Bridgewater have also signed with new teams.
If the Colts elect to sign a signal-caller rather than trade for one, Mariota has some of the most upside of any free agent quarterback under 30.
Trade Candidates Narrowing for Garoppolo
While Trubisky signing with the Steelers means Indianapolis has fewer free agent quarterback options, it also means there’s one less team potentially vying for Garoppolo in a trade.
NFL reporter Doug Kyed of Pro Football Focus reported before free agency began that the Colts and Steelers were two teams interested in exploring a Garoppolo trade.
In theory, it will be easier for the Colts to acquire Garoppolo now without the Steelers also negotiating with the 49ers.
Other teams such as the New Orleans Saints, Carolina Panthers and Seattle Seahawks are looking for new quarterbacks, but Mueller says the 49ers are going to be aiming to trade Garoppolo to the AFC.
“It’s all supply and demand when it comes to the QBs,” Mueller wrote. “With Pittsburgh and Denver now out of the mix, it should be easier to make a deal.”
It’s very possible teams are waiting to see what happens to Watson before trading for Garoppolo. But Mueller also says there’s a danger for the Colts targeting only the San Francisco quarterback.
“My fear [if I’m Indianapolis] would be is that the 49ers decide to keep Garoppolo for one more year. Trey Lance is still raw and needs time. In my opinion, it’s risky for them to move Garoppolo and give Lance the car keys.”
Another QB to be Available Following Deshaun Watson Trade?
The Texans denied the Colts access to speak with Watson, but Watson could still impact who is quarterback in Indianapolis next season.
NFL Insider Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported the Cleveland Browns and Atlanta Falcons both met with Watson this week. If either team acquires Watson, then Baker Mayfield or Matt Ryan will become available on the trade market.
“Does a team like the Colts or the Seahawks, do they then make a play for Baker [Mayfield]?” Rapoport asked while appearing as a guest on The Pat McAfee Show on Tuesday. “It’s hard to put all these guys in the deal. It’s actually much easier to do them as separate deals.
“If the Falcons were to get Deshaun Watson, which I would not consider them the front runner right now. Then I’d say, you’re probably looking at Matt Ryan going somewhere else. Maybe to your Colts.”
Clearly, Ballard could go in a few different directions at quarterback for the 2022 season. Mueller has confidence that whomever Ballard eventually acquires will be a great fit for the Colts.
“I trust him to do the right thing.”