Could the Colts draft a quarterback and begin to groom a successor for Peyton Manning?
Sure, it’s possible.
I’m not so sure it’s probable.
I’m not a big predictor, and I am certainly not a big draft predictor.
But while many run with reports of the Colts working out draft-eligible quarterbacks Colin Kaepernick from Nevada and Andy Dalton of TCU and jump on quotes Bill Polian gave Mike Chappell on the idea, I’d like to offer some other thoughts to consider.
First, what Polian said:
"Quarterback's an issue, probably not a front-burner issue, but an issue nonetheless because while Peyton's not at the end of his career, it's approaching faster than it has in the past. I wouldn't rule that out in the right situation."
I think there are two big things we should consider here: The timetable for a new quarterback overlaid against the length of a new Manning contract and the idea that Polian would really be offering up a hint of what he could do in the draft.
Depending on his package, a quarterback drafted this year could be in line to be an unrestricted free agent as soon as 2015. The Colts intend to sign Manning to a new deal that runs five or six years.
If Manning is going to play at least through 2015 or 2016, the team could be grooming a quarterback for someone else to sign away. Five seasons as the backup is a long, long time. Aaron Rodgers was Brett Favre’s apprentice for three years, and that was a long, long time.
As for an upgrade over Manning’s current backup, Curtis Painter, Polian’s not put a premium on the spot to this point and he’s not a guy who generally makes big alterations to his philosophy. I don’t see the Colts worrying any more about their contingency plans if something happens to the durable Manning any more than they usually do.
Onto the quarterback pool and candidates.
Current buzz suggests Dalton, and especially Kaepernick, are very much on the radar of two other AFC South teams, and the Titans and Jaguars need a quarterback far more than the Colts do.
Imagine the level of frustration they’d have if the Colts took one of the quarterbacks at No. 22 if they hoped to land them in the second round, or with a move up to late in the first round or earlier in the second round.
Polian wouldn’t draft a quarterback just to play keep-away. But if he loves one of these quarterbacks, he could much prefer to have him on the roster rather than be in position to defend him twice a season. If other teams believe he might make the move, perhaps it prompts them to act sooner than they otherwise intended to.
I recently asked Polian about the quality of the quarterback pool beyond the top couple.
“I think there are lots of good quarterbacks this year, probably more than there have been in a couple years in the recent past,” he said. “That said, you’ve got to evaluate them, see how they fit for you, determine by the criteria you use what the player’s upside is and how fast you think he’ll develop and whether or not you think he has the capacity to be a winning starter in the National Football League, because that’s what we’re all after. Each club has to do that on its own and clubs can reach different conclusions, obviously. But I think there are more than a few interesting guys out there.”
Polian indicated it’s a good while still before the team sets its draft board. It’s silly season.
In my dealings with him, I don’t know him to participate in the sort of media manipulation that’s intended to get other teams thinking about possibilities they may not have been considering before.
More Polian to Chappell: "I don't know that you're going to find [Manning’s] eventual replacement drafting 22nd. And whether or not you would use that choice on a quarterback in an unsettled labor situation, where you don't know what kind of contract that's going to be signed, is another issue. That said, I don't think you can dismiss it."
But what at this point would he publicly dismiss? There aren’t many drafters who are going to come out and say exactly what they won’t be taking, just as they won’t say exactly what they will be taking. The jump from saying you can’t dismiss it to saying it’ll happen is a big one.
I’ll still be surprised if the Colts make that move.