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PHOENIX — Lamar Jackson didn’t have a team that was publicly interested in him — until Monday. But now the Indianapolis Colts are that team.
And now it gets really interesting.
On the same day Jackson announced to the entire Earth he’s asked to be traded and Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh could not guarantee the team’s starting quarterback would return, it became open season for the star quarterback.
And the Colts are the first team to publicly admit they’re interested enough to do their homework on the matter.
Colts GM Chris Ballard Talks Lamar Jackson
“Anytime a special player is available, which he is, you’ve got to do the work,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard told Indianapolis area reporters here at the NFL annual meeting. “I’m not going to get into deep discussions on where it’s at or what we’re doing or what we might do.
“But what I’ll tell you is he’s a really good player, really special player. but you never know how any of this will work out.”
Later on Ballard added, “But I think anytime at that position we have a chance to acquire a guy, you’ve got to do your work on it and see if it’s doable. Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not.”
The Colts are smart to do their homework because they are something of a sad franchise needing an elite quarterback to make them postseason relevant.
And, it must be said, neither Ballard nor owner Jim Irsay would agree their club is anything other than relevant already. But then they’d have an argument with the facts.
Colts QBs Haven’t Lifted Team
The facts are the Colts have no real idea who is going to play quarterback for them in 2023 and beyond. They’ve spent the past four seasons since Andrew Luck’s retirement investing in Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan and what do they have to show for it?
Two losing seasons. One postseason appearance (during the 2020 season). And no playoff wins.
The Colts have spent $83 million on quarterbacks no longer on the roster the past three years. They’ve spent $145 million on quarterbacks since Luck retired after 2018.
And Ballard has been the general manager that entire tenure.
So, of course, the Colts need to be in this blossoming Lamar Jackson sweepstakes.
That doesn’t mean a trade is definitively getting done. Ballard said as much.
Adding Lamar Jackson Would Be A Win
But that puts Ballard under the microscope. Because if he gets the go-ahead from owner Jim Irsay to chase Jackson and cannot actually add Jackson, Ballard is seen as losing. That’s not a good look.
The Colts obviously can go a different direction. They currently hold the No. 4 overall pick in next month’s draft. That means the Colts, at best, will be able to land the draft’s third best quarterback prospect.
That’s obviously if no one trades up to the No. 3 spot currently held by Arizona to take a QB.
So the Colts can easily not move on Jackson now and wait until after the draft. Then they can try to sign Jackson to a contract or work a trade with the Ravens at that point without giving up 2023 draft capital.
The problem would be everyone will know what they’re doing if they pick a player other than a quarterback at No. 4.
And the Ravens, understanding a 2024 pick has less value than this year, could increase the asking price for Jackson.
It’s obvious the Colts could simply sign Jackson to a contract and hope to land him that way because the quarterback is carrying a non-exclusive franchise tag. The Ravens put the $32.4 million tag on Jackson weeks ago.
But that would allow the Ravens to match any Colts offer if they wish to keep Jackson. And if they don’t match, it would cost Indy two first-round picks.
It makes for an interesting few weeks on the horizon.