Chris Ballard: Desperation won’t drive Colts’ QB search

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INDIANAPOLIS – Quarterbacks make the NFL go around, and also rev up the offseason rumor mill.

The Indianapolis Colts are in the market for a starter since the retirement of Philip Rivers last month and are invariably linked to the Quarterback of the Week.

First it was Matthew Stafford, who has been by the Detroit Lions to the Los Angeles Rams.

Now it’s Carson Wentz, who apparently wants out of Philadelphia following a disappointing and mistake-marred 2020 season that saw him benched in favor of rookie Jalen Hurts.

A Friday tweet from a reporter who covers the Eagles said, “a Wentz trade is close.’’ The reporter cited a league source not associated with the Eagles.

As was the case with the courtship of Stafford, the Colts have been linked to Wentz, if he’s available. Coach Frank Reich had a strong relationship with Wentz as the Eagles’ offensive coordinator in 2016-17.

The Colts’ possible interest in Wentz was among the first questions tossed at general manager Chris Ballard during a Friday appearance on The Dan Dakich Show.

“We can’t talk about him,’’ Ballard said, laughing, “but we’re exploring all options.’’

Teams are not permitted to discuss – even casually – a player under contract with another team unless that player’s team has permitted such dialogue.

Ballard wasn’t finished.

“There’s no trade going down right now,’’ he said. “Nothing. No trade. Not today. Not for the Colts.’’

The preoccupation with the Colts and their quarterback situation is understandable. Rivers has retired after leading the Colts to an 11-5 record and a wild-card playoff berth in his only season in Indy. Backup Jacoby Brissett’s contract expires in mid-March.

The only quarterbacks under contract for 2021 are Jacob Eason, last year’s fourth-round draft who didn’t step on the field as a rookie, and Jalen Morton, who has been signed to a reserve/futures contract.

Ballard reiterated Friday what he emphasized during his post-season conference call with the local media.

“We know how important the position is and this league is driven by the position, it is,’’ he said. “But saying that, you need a team around that position. I’ve always said organizations win. Teams win. Coaches win. It’s not just the quarterback.

“Is the quarterback important? Absolutely. We’ll look at every avenue to make sure we have a guy that is functional and can produce at a winning level for us. I have a lot of faith in Frank and the staff to make that work.’’

It might be a veteran. It might be a rookie selected in the 1st round of the April draft.

Whichever quarterback is under center for the September opener, he won’t be the product of a desperation move made by Ballard and his staff in February, March and April.

“There’s a fine line between being aggressive and desperate,’’ he said. “We are not going to operate in the desperate world. That’s what the world does. That’s what Twitter does. That’s what people do.

“We’re not going to operate in that world. We’ll be aggressive when we need to be aggressive.’’

Ballard has the resources to pursue the various options. The Colts are projected to be roughly $65 million under the 2021 salary cap and owner Jim Irsay has never been shy about spending whatever it takes to field a championship team. The team also has the 21st overall pick in the draft.

Fans, though, should temper their expectations, according to Ballard.

“If everybody thinks we’re just going to all of a sudden plop a Pat Mahomes (onto the roster) or Lamar Jackson is just going to fall in our lap, that’s not (realistic),’’ he said. “Those guys are rare. You can win games with good quarterback play. It might not be special quarterback play, but you can win with good quarterback play and we think we can.

“You’d like to have dynamic, absolutely. You’d like to have a dynamic star. But they just don’t fall off trees.’’

Ballard said Brissett “will be in the mix’’ as the team decides which QB options make the most sense moving forward.

“We like Jacoby,’’ he said. “We’ve got to let that work out.’’

Eason also “is in the mix.’’

Ballard was asked about Andrew Luck, who suddenly retired prior to the 2019 season. Social media revved up this week with unconfirmed reports of Luck meeting with Irsay and wanting to return to the team.

“Look, there was no meeting,’’ Ballard said. “Andrew’s retired. He’s been retired. We talk. I talk to Andrew. But I don’t ever ask like, ‘Andrew, could you please come back?’

“I figure if Andrew wanted to play, he’d just say, ‘I think I want to play football again.’’

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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