If Carson Wentz is going to play quarterback for Indianapolis in 2022, the Colts don't know it yet. A year after trading a first- and third-round pick to acquire the ex-Eagles signal-caller, team brass is reportedly undecided on whether to retain Wentz for a second season -- in large part because of owner Jim Irsay's frustration with the way 2021 ended. The salary cap won't stop them from making a move, either, as the Colts would save significant money by either trading or releasing the QB this offseason.
The question at the heart of the conversation is, what are their alternatives? As CBS Sports NFL insider Jason La Canfora noted Wednesday, even if the Colts prefer to upgrade, big names like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson are unlikely to be had. But if they convince themselves another veteran -- like Derek Carr or Kirk Cousins or Jimmy Garoppolo -- is worth pursuing, Wentz's own market could expand. Any acquiring team (via trade) would be on the hook for Wentz's $28 million cap hit, but the QB's deal includes no guaranteed money beyond 2022, meaning he could be cut at no cost.
Where, exactly, could Wentz end up, if it's not back in Indy? Here are some potential suitors:
Unlikely but possible
Giants: New management has spoken highly of Daniel Jones, and the cap situation isn't ideal. But if coach Brian Daboll is interested in competition without a total reset, he had a similarly skilled (albeit better) QB in Josh Allen with the Bills. New assistant general manager Brandon Brown worked for the Eagles during Wentz's peak, as did assistant Mike Groh. Plus, they'd allow the Colts to ship him back to the NFC, where the Giants have seen his best stuff firsthand.
Panthers: You can't put any move past a team with this much QB desperation, but after so many failed swings at mercurial options (Sam Darnold, Cam Newton, etc.), they feel much more likely to address the position through the draft.
Raiders: This only applies in the scenario where the Colts zero in on Derek Carr as their preferred upgrade. New coach Josh McDaniels might rather take a swing on Wentz and re-evaluate everything in 2023 than commit long-term, at a steep price, to a guy he's yet to coach. McDaniels, remember, interviewed for the Eagles' job in 2021 knowing Wentz may have been his QB.
Saints: Because of their dire cap situation, Wentz would only be a realistic target if he's released. And he'd warrant a look, considering their dearth of QBs, but even then, his freewheeling style doesn't quite feel like their approach.
Texans: Would they be better off giving second-year man Davis Mills a fuller crack at the top job? Sure. But with Deshaun Watson done here, they could afford competition, even if just to set up a bigger reset in 2023. The Colts might not prefer to keep Wentz in the division, but then again, if they're willing to dump him after just one year, what do they care?
Vikings: Like the Raiders, this works only in the scenario where their current QB -- in this case, Kirk Cousins -- is moved. New coach Kevin O'Connell likes Cousins, but they also have a new GM who might not prefer to extend Kirk, who can save the team $35M if he's dealt. Adding Wentz, a North Dakota native who grew up a Vikings fan, would allow them to re-evaluate in 2023.
Broncos: Aaron Rodgers is the dream, but a far-fetched one, considering his improved relationship with the Packers. Unless it's Russell Wilson (also unlikely) or Deshaun Watson (who has a big off-field asterisk), would they rather pay for Jimmy Garoppolo, who's maybe slightly safer than Teddy Bridgewater? With plenty of cap space, they could afford to pair Wentz with a rookie and give themselves multiple options after 2022.
Buccaneers: They'd much prefer a safer, superstar fix after Tom Brady's (temporary?) retirement, so Rodgers, Wilson and Watson will all get looks. Garoppolo and Jameis Winston might, too. But Bruce Arians has talked highly of Wentz before, and like all the other teams here, they'd have the flexibility of totally resetting in 2023 anyway.
Commanders: They need a QB, they've never been afraid of veteran swings, and yet Ron Rivera needs something more than another free-agent flyer (as evidenced by their reported offer for Matthew Stafford in 2021). With close to $30M in projected cap space, they have the money to pull it off, and they've also seen Wentz at his best in the NFC East.
Steelers: While a Rodgers trade would be sweet for both parties, they feel far more likely to go with a soft rebuild at QB as Mike Tomlin wades into post-Ben Roethlisberger waters. Wentz offers some traits of a younger Ben, and his arrival wouldn't preclude them from drafting a QB. They're also built to play like Wentz's Colts did in 2021, leaning on the run and defense.