Matt Hasselbeck is currently 39 and has made at least $3 million in each of the last three seasons, so it seems that the Indianapolis Colts will soon be in a position to find a new backup quarterback.
Given that Andrew Luck and T.Y Hilton will soon need new contracts, the most cap-friendly strategy would probably be selecting an inexpensive backup near the end of the draft. According to Spotrac, Hasselbeck’s contract has the fifth-largest annual value among backup quarterbacks (behind Chad Henne, Ryan Mallett, Chase Daniel and Shaun Hill).
Hasselbeck, one of the league’s most efficient passers during his peak years in Seattle, signed a two-year/$7.25 million contract with the Colts in 2013, before signing a one-year/$3 million extension this offseason. Luck wound up making all 37 starts (including the playoffs) during Hasselbeck’s time in Indianapolis, with the former Seattle Seahawk and Tennessee Titan making seven garbage time appearances.
While Hasselbeck’s experience and locker room presence presumably has value, he is probably more of a luxury now (if he wasn’t already). That said, 2015 could be the year the Colts repeat the strategy they employed in the 2004 and 2009 drafts by drafting a quarterback late — one who can learn from Hasselbeck without the pressure of being the next man up as he acclimates to the league.
East Carolina’s Shane Carden is someone worth looking at on Day 3, as he has been one of college football’s most prolific passers during his three years as a starter. He was second in the nation in passing with 4,736 yards last season, to go along with 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. While a high volume of passes contributed (he led the nation with 617 attempts), his rate stats were still solid (if unspectacular). He averaged 7.7 yards per attempt and completed 63.5% of his passes, ranking 41st in ESPN’s Total QBR with a 66.8 (the stat is scaled so 50 is average and the college version is adjusted for schedule).
Carden’s size and athleticism (or lack thereof) are the main reasons he should slip to where it could make sense for the Colts to take him. CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler says Carden, who is 6’2” and 218lbs, is “not physically imposing, size-wise or athletically [and] lacks ideal arm strength and throws too many floaters with too much air in the trajectory of his passes.”
Still, while Brugler and NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein also express concern about Carden’s delivery, both writers speak highly of his football IQ and makeup, so there could be some upside.
Brandon Bridge of South Alabama may be another quarterback worth looking at, and he fits the classic “project” model as a player with tremendous raw ability that needs refining. Zierlein writes that Bridge has “elite arm strength and instant release. [He] has enough arm to make off-balance intermediate and deep throws that few (if any) in this draft can make.” On the flip side Zierlein adds that Bridge, who is 6’4” and 239lbs, has “coin-flip accuracy” and sub-optimal footwork.
Brugler is less concerned about Bridge’s footwork, but does say he has a tendency to stare down receivers and needs to throw a more catchable ball, while also expressing concern about this experience (he made only 373 collegiate throws). Ultimately, though, he compares Bridge to Colin Kaepernick given his size, mobility and arm strength.
Bridge is a prospect that could be appealing to the Colts, as even in the event Luck is injured this year, Bridge would not be called upon to fill in immediately, as Hasselbeck remains in the fold. Bridge will instead be given the time he needs to work on the areas of his game he needs to improve.
Washington State’s Connor Halliday, Nevada’s Cody Fajardo, and Alabama’s Blake Sims will also be among the quarterbacks available at the back end of the draft. While backup quarterback is not exactly high on the Colts priority list heading into the draft, don’t be surprised if they address the position in the later rounds.
Sal Cacciatore is an Indianapolis Colts staff writer for Pro Football Spot. Follow Sal (@Scacc8), Pro Football Spot (@PFSpot) and Pro Football Spot: Colts (@Spot_Colts) on Twitter. Sal also writes about high school sports for Newsday on Long Island.