Ballard, Colts will consider trading for QB Jackson

PHOENIX — The Indianapolis Colts’ yearslong search for a quarterback continues, and that search will include consideration of Baltimore Ravens star Lamar Jackson.

Colts general manager Chris Ballard on Monday confirmed the team’s interest in the quarterback at the NFL’s annual league meeting, saying that Indianapolis — which has endured constant QB upheaval since Andrew Luck’s retirement in 2019 — has to consider all options to fix the position. Among those options is Jackson, who was given the nonexclusive franchise tag by the Ravens but is free to negotiate with outside teams.

“Anytime a special player is available, which he is, you’ve got to do the work,” Ballard said, echoing the sentiments of coach Shane Steichen, who said earlier Monday that the Colts were doing their “due diligence” on all quarterbacks. “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.”

A team that signs Jackson to an offer sheet would owe the Ravens two first-round picks if they decline to match the contract. Also, Jackson on Monday tweeted that he had earlier this month made a trade request to Baltimore, adding another layer of intrigue to the story.

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Speaking later Monday, Colts owner Jim Irsay noted teams are “always looking for great dynamic players” but said it’s important not to compromise your future to do it.

“There was an article recently saying the Rams mortgaged their future and now they’re paying for it after they won the Super Bowl and had all that success, with the draft picks not being there,” he said. “So, to me, that’s what you have to be careful about.”

Irsay did note, though, that the money part of the contract — guarantees aside — wouldn’t be a problem for him.

“It really has nothing to do with actual dollars,” he said. “I mean, paying a contract like that is not a problem. I mean, it’s not a problem for me. The issue is what’s the right thing to do for the franchise in terms of what helps us win in the long run.”

In Indianapolis, the Colts are under considerable pressure to solve their quarterback crisis after witnessing Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan flame out in consecutive seasons in 2021 and 2022. Jackson would go a long way toward fixing the issue.

“If you don’t feel like you have one that can absolutely change the franchise in terms of leading you every year, I think you’re always going to feel some pressure to get that player right,” Ballard said.

That’s why the Colts at least considered trading up to the first overall pick with the Chicago Bears before ultimately deciding not to seriously pursue that move. The Carolina Panthers did make the deal and now will pick first overall. The Colts pick fourth.

“I didn’t want to make a blind decision without all the information,” Ballard said, an indication the team wasn’t sold on what it would be trading up for. “I know people might not understand that, but I think just history kind of tells you that when you do that, you better know what you’re getting.”

So, now, the Colts are considering a number of scenarios at quarterback. Ballard on Monday left the door open to trading up or down in the draft. He also was adamant that picking a quarterback in the upper reaches of the draft is not the only avenue to acquiring one.

“What I would tell you is that there’s good players in this draft at every level,” Ballard said. “Everybody just talks about the top four [quarterbacks], but there’s some more guys out there that are pretty good players. And I think history’s shown — especially in the last few years with Jalen [Hurts] being one and Brock Purdy coming in and playing really well — they come at every level. So, we’ll do our work on every one of them.”

Hurts, the Philadelphia Eagles’ 2020 second-round pick, guided the Eagles to the Super Bowl in February. Purdy, a seventh-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers last year, took over for them after Jimmy Garoppolo’s season-ending injury and went 7-1 as a starter, including the playoffs.

Meanwhile, the Colts have Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger and Nick Foles on their roster — none of whom is seen as the long-term answer. That is exactly why Jackson will remain linked to the Colts. That, plus Ballard’s willingness to embrace the idea of considering the acquisition.

The Colts are a long way from taking any substantive action on the matter, but they’re keeping everything on the table because solutions have been so hard to come by.

“I think anytime at that position we have a chance to acquire a guy, you’ve got to do your work on it to see if it’s doable,” Ballard said. “Sometimes it is, sometimes it’s not.”

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