The Indianapolis Colts are looking for an upgrade at quarterback this offseason, to the surprise of absolutely no one. They have been cycling through quarterbacks since Andrew Luck retired in 2019, and it hasn't really worked. Many have assumed that the Colts will nab their new quarterback in the draft, but there may be another option.
According to ESPN's Stephen Holder, Indianapolis has not ruled out making a run at Baltimore Ravens superstar Lamar Jackson. The 2019 MVP has been in a contract dispute with his team for some time now, and a resolution doesn't appear close. The Ravens placed the nonexclusive franchise tag on Jackson earlier in March, which prevented him from hitting free agency but still allows him to talk to other teams.
Now, it's not a sure thing that the Colts will pursue Jackson. Holder even wrote in his article that team sources are skeptical about such a move even occurring. When there's smoke there's fire, though, so this report may confirm there is at least some interest.
If the Colts were to pursue Jackson, though, what might it cost them? Let's take a closer look.
Colts' perfect trade for Lamar Jackson
Lamar Jackson to Indianapolis for first-round picks in 2023 and 2024
Here's the thing, Indianapolis, or any team for that matter, can't exactly “trade” for Jackson right now, at least in the traditional sense. The reason for that is due to the nonexclusive franchise tag Baltimore placed on him.
Under the nonexclusive franchise tag, other teams can reach out to Jackson and even offer him a contract. However, the Ravens can choose to either match the contract, or let Jackson go to the new team in exchange for two first-round picks. That likely sounds familiar to fans of other leagues, as it's essentially restricted free agency in those leagues.
However, there is a way around this cookie-cutter package. The Ravens could opt to do a sign-and-trade for Jackson and get more compensation back for him than just the two firsts. While that would be great for Baltimore, it wouldn't be so great for Indianapolis.
Two first-round picks would already be a hefty price to give up, especially considering that the one this year is the fourth overall pick. The Colts could wait until after the draft to offer Jackson a contract, which would see them send firsts in 2024 and 2025 instead. However, it seems very unlikely they would leave the draft without their quarterback, be it Jackson or a rookie. Baltimore matching that deal would also be a disaster for the Colts and leave them without any QB.
In short, while there is a way the Ravens could get more for Jackson, it's very convoluted and not to Indy's benefit.
Moving on to the fit itself, Jackson's skillset should translate well to the Colts' offense. Remember, new head coach Shane Steichen helped developed Jalen Hurts into a superstar in Philadelphia. Another mobile quarterback, especially one of Jackson's caliber, would be a dream for him. Jackson would also provide more immediate reward than a rookie quarterback, which could help Indy's stars in their primes.
Obviously, there are several concerns with this move. One of the biggest ones is his durability, as he has missed 11 games over the last two years. Another concern is Jackson's future contract, which will be among the biggest in the league.
If the Colts decide those risks are worth it, though, then they could pursue Jackson this offseason.