The needle for the Indianapolis Colts currently points toward the team drafting a quarterback at No. 4 in the 2023 NFL draft.
If the decision were completely owner Jim Irsay’s to make, there would be no question. The Athletic’s Zak Keefer reported that “deep down,” Irsay’s desire is for his team to find a franchise quarterback through this year’s draft.
But one NFL agent isn’t convinced.
“The only team that I think could make a splash during the draft is the Indianapolis Colts,” a veteran NFL agent told Heavy senior reporter Matt Lombardo. “I think they really are the leaders in the clubhouse for Lamar Jackson.”
Jackson is available because the Baltimore Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on the quarterback. That means any team can negotiate with Jackson this offseason.
Colts Haven’t ‘Ruled Out’ a Run at Lamar Jackson
Irsay’s preference is notable because the Colts owner has been more involved in major team decisions over the last couple years.
But even Keefer’s report didn’t “rule out” the Colts making a run for Jackson.
If the Colts held the top pick in the draft and could take any quarterback they wanted, the decision of whether or not to make a run at Jackson would be much easier. But that’s not the case.
The Colts sit at No. 4 in the first round of the 2023 NFL draft. The expectation is two signal callers will be off the board to the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans before Indianapolis’ first pick.
It could even be three if another quarterback-needy team jumps up to No. 3 ahead of the Colts.
At 26 years old and the 2019 NFL MVP, Jackson is in his prime. He’s posted a 45-16 record as an NFL starter. He also has 101 passing touchdowns and 24 rushing scores versus only 38 interceptions.
Jackson has averaged 7.4 yards per pass and 6.1 yards per carry during his career as well.
But he’s finished the past two seasons on the sideline with injuries. There have also been reports that Jackson is seeking a fully-guaranteed contract similar in value to Deshaun Watson’s five-year, $250 million deal.
For a lot of NFL teams, those negatives outweigh the reward of having Jackson behind center.
The Big Splash the Colts Could Make in 2023 NFL Draft
The other negative about acquiring Jackson is the compensation it will take. While teams are permitted to negotiate with Jackson while he’s on the non-exclusive franchise tag, the Ravens can match any contract the Colts or another team offer the quarterback.
If the Ravens decline to match the deal, they will then receive two first-round picks from the team that signs Jackson.
An interesting idea that hasn’t been given enough attention, though, is that it doesn’t matter where in the first round those picks are.
The Colts possess the No. 4 pick, but there’s nothing preventing them from moving back from that spot to acquire more draft capital. They could fall back to No. 9, 12 or 20 and then give up that selection and next year’s first-rounder for Jackson.
Indianapolis could even move back multiple times. As long as general manager Chris Ballard kept finding trade suitors and finished the deals with a pick in the first round, the Colts could still land Jackson.
Then, in the process, they’d have more draft picks.
There’s multiple ways for the Colts to make a splash on draft day. And according to one NFL agent, they are the only team that can do it.