How Philip Rivers’ Retirement Affects Patriots’ Search For Quarterback

The Patriots and Colts both will be in the QB market this offseason


January 20, 2021

Add the Indianapolis Colts to the list of teams that will be searching for a new quarterback this offseason.

Colts QB Philip Rivers announced his retirement Wednesday after 17 NFL seasons, leaving Indianapolis without a clear option at the position.

Rivers was an impending free agent, but general manager Chris Ballard had expressed interest in re-signing the 39-year-old. With backup Jacoby Brissett also set to hit free agency in March, Jacob Eason — a 2020 fourth-round draft pick who has yet to take an NFL snap — is the only Colts signal-caller currently under contract for the 2021 season.

Indy will need to sign (or re-sign) at least one veteran quarterback in the coming months, meaning they and the New England Patriots will be competing for the same pool of available players.

The Patriots have quarterback questions of their own after their Cam Newton-led passing attack ranked near the bottom of the NFL this season. Newton and third-stringer Brian Hoyer will be free agents, leaving only Jarrett Stidham and practice squadder Jake Dolegala under contract for 2021.

Brissett, who began his career with the Patriots, has been mentioned as a potential bridge option if New England looks to add a low-cost veteran while also using a high draft pick on a QB. But with Rivers retiring, the Colts could look to retain the 28-year-old, who’s started 30 games for them over the last four seasons. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyrod Taylor also would fit this mold.

If they’re looking for a higher-caliber replacement, the Colts could attempt to pry Matthew Stafford from Detroit or look to reunite head coach Frank Reich with Carson Wentz, though Wentz’s bloated Philadelphia Eagles contract makes him a less likely trade candidate. Stafford is set to earn a base salary of just $9.5 million in 2021, but it’s not yet clear whether the Lions’ new leadership would be open to moving him. Dak Prescott is the top quarterback headed for free agency, but we wouldn’t bet on him leaving the Dallas Cowboys.

The Colts also could target Newton if they believe New England’s offensive structure and poor skill-position talent were more to blame for his struggles than the QB’s own inconsistency. Other impending UFAs include Jameis Winston, Mitchell Trubisky and Andy Dalton.

From a draft perspective, New England and Indianapolis both could be in the mix for the second- and third-tier quarterback prospects available this spring.

The Colts currently own the 21st overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. Would they take a chance on Alabama’s Mac Jones if the Patriots pass on him at No. 15? Or consider an aggressive trade-up for someone like North Dakota State’s Trey Lance?

Regardless of how Ballard and his staff choose to proceed this offseason, the effects of Rivers’ retirement will be felt in New England, as well.

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