Colts Projected to Sign Former No. 1 Pick in Free Agency

Indianapolis Colts

Getty ESPN's Stephen Holder projected the Indianapolis Colts to sign a former No. 1 draft pick in NFL free agency.

ESPN’s Stephen Holder clearly predicted the Indianapolis Colts to “put a stop” to the quarterback carousel the franchise has been on the last several years. But that doesn’t mean the Colts won’t be interested in adding a veteran signal caller.

In fact, Holder projected the Colts to sign quarterback Jameis Winston in NFL free agency.

“Before learning of Matt Ryan’s availability in March 2022, the Colts were actually in discussions with Winston and were strongly considering him as an option,” Holder wrote. “In this instance, the Colts go back to him as a veteran fallback plan for the rookie they plan to draft in April.”

Winston has spent the last three seasons with the New Orleans Saints. He served as the team’s backup during Drew Brees’ final year in 2020.

Over the last two seasons, Winston posted a 6-4 record with 18 touchdowns and 8 interceptions.

How Winston Could Fit in Colts’ Future QB Plans

A former No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 NFL Draft, Winston has largely been a disappointment in the league. He’s thrown 96 interceptions in 86 NFL games, which might not scare some Colts fans away.

Indianapolis led the NFL with 34 giveaways, and the Colts were last in turnover differential with a minus-13 margin, in 2022. During Winston’s last full season as a starter with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019, he threw a league-leading 30 picks.

But during 2019, Winston also led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards and posted a career-high 33 touchdowns. Holder argued that kind of aerial potential is exactly what the Colts need.

“One hope is that Winston’s willingness to push the ball downfield could help revitalize the Colts’ deep passing game and perhaps give life to their play-action game with running back Jonathan Taylor,” wrote Holder.

The Saints managed to take some of the gunslinger out of Winston. In New Orleans, Winston averaged 7.3 yards per attempt with 8 interceptions in 10 starts.

But Winston averaged 7.7 yards per pass during five seasons with Tampa Bay. From 2017-19, Winston posted 8.0 yards per attempt.

The Colts didn’t have much of a downfield passing game during 2022. Matt Ryan averaged 6.6 yards per pass while Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles both totaled under 5.8 yards per attempt.

Colts to Draft QB at No. 4 Overall?

If adding a turnover-prone quarterback doesn’t scare Colts fans, talk about signing or trading for any veteran signal caller might. The Colts have started a different quarterback in Week 1 every year since 2017.

That instability is not a recipe for success.

Signing Winston would mean another different Week 1 signal caller for Indianapolis. But the important thing is signing Winston would not change the Colts’ draft strategy.

ESPN’s Dan Graziano predicted Winston to be interested in signing with Indianapolis even if the team prioritizes quarterback in the draft.

“Even if the Colts take a quarterback in the first round, [Winston] can take his chances on being able to beat out the rookie for at least one year,” wrote Graziano.

Indianapolis holds the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. Just about every early mock draft has the Colts targeting a quarterback at that spot or trading up for a signal caller.

Signing Winston would give the Colts a quality backup and a quarterback with starter experience who can play initially if the rookie isn’t ready in Week 1.

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