INDIANAPOLIS – This is what "all chips in" looks like for the Indianapolis Colts these days?
A soon-to-be 37-year-old quarterback in Matt Ryan, who likely has a couple of more years left in his NFL career?
How far the Colts have fallen over the years. This isn’t "all chips in," as owner Jim Irsay said they were about earlier this offseason.
🏈💪🏈 pic.twitter.com/43C0Z4zdVb— Jim Irsay (@JimIrsay) January 14, 2022
By acquiring Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons, the Colts are simply using another Band-Aid to cover up the wound they've had at quarterback since Andrew Luck retired in 2019.
That approach sound familiar?
Yes, because they did the same thing two years ago when they signed Philip Rivers after the one-year experiment with Jacoby Brissett didn’t work in 2019.
The trade of Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders and the deal Monday to acquire Ryan have put the Colts right back in the position of continuing the search for their long-term answer at quarterback.
Moving on from Wentz was a risk in the first place for Indianapolis. It also showed how much the front office was displeased with him in a season of poor decisions and questionable leadership. The Colts knew prior to trading Wentz to the Commanders that the quarterback landscape on the outside was basically as bare as grass in the desert heat.
Outside of Deshaun Watson, who ended up traded to the Cleveland Browns, there weren’t any franchise-changing quarterbacks available on the market. The San Francisco 49ers' Jimmy Garoppolo had shoulder surgery earlier this offseason. That’s the last thing the Colts need, dealing with another quarterback coming off shoulder surgery, as they did with Luck, with no definitive return date. The Raiders aren’t trading Derek Carr now that coach Josh McDaniels and receiver Davante Adams are there.
The quarterbacks on the free-agent market weren't great, either, and the Colts don’t have a first-round pick in this year’s draft to select a signal-caller after giving that away to acquire Wentz last offseason. That, again, showed how bad the Colts wanted to quickly cut their losses from Wentz.
Ryan, the NFL MVP in 2016, should come in and be effective for the Colts next season, the same way Rivers was in 2020. He has two years remaining on his contract (at $24.7 million in 2022 and $28.2 million in 2023).
But beyond next season will be a serious question when it comes to Ryan.
Not everybody can be Tom Brady and play at a high level well into their 40s. Ryan, who has thrown for more than 4,000 yards in a season 10 times since entering the NFL in 2008, will have to change his game and play more like Rivers, which means quicker throws because he’s not an athletic quarterback.
While the Colts are hunting for the next Peyton Manning or Luck of the franchise, the rest of the AFC continues to load up at quarterback.
Watson. Joe Burrow. Lamar Jackson. Josh Allen. Russell Wilson. Patrick Mahomes. Justin Herbert.
Those are all quarterbacks in the AFC who have led their teams or have the ability to lead their lead teams to the Super Bowl.
Indianapolis, based off what it's done so far in free agency, still isn't in position to overtake the Tennessee Titans in the AFC South. The Colts still have some significant pieces that have to be filled -- depth to help Michael Pittman Jr. at receiver, a new starting tight end after Jack Doyle’s retirement, and a left tackle to protect Ryan’s blind side.
The Colts have their starting quarterback for 2022, but they’re still far away from showing all the chips are in for them to make a run.