INDIANAPOLIS – The commitment is undeniable as the Indianapolis Colts head into what must be a transformational offseason.
Finally, they’re in position to cease bouncing from this veteran to that veteran and acquire their quarterback of the future. They sit on the No. 4 rung in an April NFL draft that has at least three prospects with “franchise quarterback’’ potential.
General manager Chris Ballard grasps the significance of the opportunity.
“Yes, I do whatever it takes,’’ he said in January. “If we thought there’s a player that we’re driven to get that makes the franchise and the team better, that’s what we would do.’’
Ditto, owner Jim Irsay.
“No one can shy away from what a quarterback means in this league,’’ he said earlier this month during Steichen’s introductory press conference.
That’s when Irsay added a comment that grew legs and ran on social media.
The Alabama guy doesn’t look bad, I tell you.
As much as the timing is ideal for the Colts – in need of a QB and there’s at least three to consider – they aren’t in control of anything.
Those are the Chicago Bears in the driver’s seat with the No. 1 overall selection.
Nobody’s doing anything until the Bears do something.
And Chicago is in no hurry to do anything.
With the NFL Scouting Combine back in town this week, the majority of the league’s general managers and head coaches hold 15-minute confabs Tuesday and Wednesday before the focus shifts to the 300-plus players being evaluated.
Not surprisingly, Bears’ general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus were asked about how they plan on handling the No. 1 pick.
Poles admitted he’s had “starter conversations’’ with other teams about trading for the top pick, but nothing has advanced to what would be involved in terms of draft picks or players. He also reaffirmed the team’s commitment to Justin Fields as its starting quarterback in 2023, but acknowledged the Bears’ advantageous position moving forward.
“I’m excited about where his game is going to go,’’ Poles told Chicago media. “But at the same time, when you sit in our situation – No. 1 overall – you have to do your due diligence. You have to investigate everything. You have to spend time with those guys, just to make sure we’re making the right decision.’’
Even with the presence of Fields – the 11th overall pick in 2021 – the Bears could use the No. 1 overall pick in April on one of the intriguing quarterback prospects: Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Kentucky’s Will Levis. Or they could trade back, acquire a slew of prime picks and improve Fields’ supporting cast, and land one of the top defensive players in the draft.
“Yeah, that’s one of the options, right?’’ Eberflus said. “You can stay right there at 1 and pick if you have a great player there that you like. Or you can trade back as far as you need to (and) get as many picks as you want.
“Those are all the options that Ryan and I are looking at right now. We’ll figure it out. We have 58 days or so. We’ll figure that out.’’
Many analysts consider the Colts the best trade partner for the Bears. But no one should dismiss the possibility of the Houston Texans, who sit at No. 2, offering Chicago a better package. The Texans also hold the 12th overall selection from the Deshaun Watson trade, and five of the top 73.
If the Colts are unable to offer a trade package comparable to Houston, Carolina or Las Vegas in terms of draft capital, they could make theirs more attractive by adding veteran players. Maybe defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and/or cornerback Kenny Moore II.
Eberflus, the Colts’ defensive coordinator at the time, was thrilled when Ballard acquired tackle DeForest Buckner from San Francisco in a 2020 trade. And Moore excelled in Eberflus’ scheme.
Even though many trades involving lottery draft picks occur close to the draft, Poles indicated quicker action is possible. The new league year and free agency begins March 15.
“There are some scenarios that might benefit us to move before free agency opens, potentially,’’ Poles said. “But again, when we get back with all the information that we’ve gathered from, here I think we’ll have a better direction, a clearer view of what we need.
“And there’s scenarios where you could add players as well, potentially, which again, gives you some clarity on what you want to do in the draft and free agency.’’
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