Colts general manager Chris Ballard didn’t say his team wasn’t interested in Lamar Jackson, but he also didn’t say he was interested in the Ravens’ quarterback.
There was no declarative statement about Indianapolis going after Jackson.
It’s not imminent, it’s not imminent, and it’s not imminent, despite what some would like to hear.
“Any time a special player is available, and he is, you have to do the work,” Ballard said at NFL owners meetings. “I am not going to get into any deep discussions about where it is or what we are doing or what we could do. All I can tell you is that he is a really good player, a really special player. But you never know how this will all work out.”
The first part of Ballard’s comments is what grabbed all the headlines.
The last part is what is being overlooked. Because in all likelihood, we know how this will work.
Jackson likely won’t be the Colts’ next franchise quarterback, and the team will find its future sign in the draft.
Indy’s offseason moves thus far, such as signing potential quarterback Gardner Minshew and trading starting cornerback Stephon Gilmore, speak to that approach along with other comments Ballard and owner Jim Irsay made at owners meetings.
“Our belief and my belief has always been, you build through the draft. The draft is your conduit for success or failure,” Irsay said. “That’s where it’s at, and I think you’ll see, the best teams that are playing well now and over the last 10 years have drafted quarterbacks and developed them.”
While the Colts aren’t ruling out Lamar Jackson, here’s what would prevent it from happening
Only four of the last 20 starting quarterbacks for the Super Bowl champions went undrafted or traded on draft night by that franchise: Drew Brees and the Saints in 2009, Peyton Manning and the Broncos in 2015, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in 2020 and Matthew Stafford and the Rams in 2021.
With that in mind, a more realistic option than signing Jackson, which I hope Colts superiors ponder, is to trade to the No. 3 pick or stay at the No. 4 pick. Indianapolis is likely to miss out on the opportunity The top two QB prospects Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s CJ Stroud, as Carolina and Houston need quarterbacks and are taking first and second, respectively. The Colts’ decision likely falls on Florida’s Anthony Richardson or Kentucky’s Will Levis, and whether there is a significant gap between the two.
There have been two instances of QB-needy teams moving up to No. 3 in recent years:
• The 49ers traded for Trey Lance in 2021 and sent the Dolphins the 12th pick, a 2022 first round pick, a 2022 third round pick and a 2023 first round pick.
• The Jets traded for Sam Darnold in 2018 and sent the Colts the No. 6 pick (Quenton Nelson), the No. 37 pick (Braden Smith), another 2018 second-round pick (traded to the Eagles) and a second selection of 2019. rounder
The last time a team specifically moved up from No. 4 to No. 3 was in 2012. Cleveland traded the No. 4 pick, a fourth round pick, a fifth round pick, and a seventh round pick that year to Minnesota in exchange for Pick No. 3 and the right to draft running back Trent Richardson.
If the Colts were to sell Levis or Richardson, I think they could trade No. 3 in exchange for the No. 4 pick, one of their three fifth-round picks and one second-round pick from 2024, or a similar package that doesn’t it’s all about their 2024 first-round pick. By retaining their first-round pick, Indianapolis could add another franchise-altering player (dare I say wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.?) next season.
“Everyone was like, ‘Well, you just put Peyton Manning in and you’re automatically a winner. You don’t have to do anything now. You just have to focus on the Super Bowl because you’re going to win 11 games or whatever, easily,’” Irsay said, comparing Manning, who was drafted No. 1 in the 1998 draft, to Jackson’s signature. “It’s not true. You need more than just a quarterback. … You’ve got to have the quarterback, but to get where you really want to go, everyone knows you need more than the quarterback. And you’ve got to find a way to get that more.”
One way to significantly curb the “plus” Irsay referred to is to sign Jackson. The Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on the 26-year-old, allowing him to trade with other teams, but Jackson is reportedly seeking a fully guaranteed contract on par with the five-year, $230 million deal. fully guaranteed that Deshaun Watson received. for the Browns last summer.
Even if Irsay, who said he’s vehemently against big, fully guaranteed deals, shelled out the cash, Indianapolis would still have to send Baltimore two first-round picks if the Ravens decide not to call. Not to mention Jackson, who was the league’s 2019 MVP and has a remarkable 45-16 record as an NFL regular-season starter, has missed 11 games (including one postseason contest) in recent two seasons and has gone 1-3 as a starter. starter in the playoffs. His talent is undeniable, but there are legitimate questions about his long-term durability and his lack of playoff success.
Is that worth rolling the dice for?
On one hand, the answer is yes because Jackson is a proven product and one of the most dynamic players in the NFL when healthy.
But on the other hand, it is not because it is not cheap and there is no guarantee that your body will endure.
“Any time at that position we have an opportunity to acquire a guy, you have to do your job to see if it’s feasible,” Ballard said. “Sometimes it is. Sometimes it isn’t.
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From my perspective, in theory, it is “doable”, but in reality it “is not”. Indianapolis has left the door slightly ajar for Jackson, though perhaps a better bet is to move to No. 3, pick up a rookie signal-caller, and finally finish off the veteran QB merry-go-round that has plagued the team since Andrew Luck left. was. Away from football in 2019.
“When you have a young quarterback, a rookie quarterback, it gives you an opportunity to build the franchise for the first three or four years while you have that lower number (salary cap),” Irsay said. “And that is so essential because the money will be spent (eventually). That is not in doubt. The question is how do you spend it? Can you maintain greatness?
(Top photo: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)