The Indianapolis Colts believe they can be a contender with a little bit of Luck — or perhaps a proven veteran such as Matthew Stafford — at quarterback next season.
Following the retirement of Philip Rivers last week, the available Stafford already has been linked to Indy as a potential destination, while Colts owner Jim Irsay continues to leave a light on for Andrew Luck if the retired former No. 1 overall draft pick ever decides he’d like to resume his NFL career.
“Our belief is we’re close, that we have a tremendous nucleus of players that are capable of competing for the Super Bowl very soon,” Irsay said Wednesday, according to ESPN. “Ideally if you can get someone to come in this year who’s ready to go, it gives you your best opportunity.”
With Rivers retired and backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett a pending free agent, the Colts presently have only 2020 fourth-round pick Jacob Eason under contract at the position.
Earlier this month, the 32-year-old Stafford and the Detroit Lions mutually agreed to a separation this offseason. According to ESPN, several NFL teams have reached out to express interest in trading for the 12-year veteran. Stafford is 16th on the all-time list with 45,109 passing yards, but the Lions only have made the playoffs three times without a postseason win during those dozen years.
Stafford comes with a salary-cap hit of $33 million next season and $26 million in 2022, and the Colts have nearly $70 million in available salary cap space in 2021. Cam Newton and Jameis Winston also are among the quarterbacks available via free agency in the offseason.
Irsay also admitted Wednesday that the Colts would be open to bringing back Luck, who hasn’t played the past two seasons after retired abruptly in August 2019 for various health reasons.
The 31-year-old Luck, the No. 1 overall pick in 2012, was a four-time Pro Bowler in six seasons with the Colts.
“He knows how much we’d love to have him be our quarterback, there’s just no question about that,” Irsay said. “But at the same time, we know for it to work out, he has to be the one that says ‘You know what? I’m ready. I want to really create a little bit of history, in unprecedented aspects.’
“I don’t know if we’ll see that. I think he’s happy. He’s raising his daughter. He has a wonderful family. He’s a great Colt and he knows that he can come back any time he wants, but at the same time, we respect that he’s made that decision.”