INDIANAPOLIS – Chris Ballard played his cards close to the vest Sunday, but indications are the Indianapolis Colts are closing in on a new backup quarterback.
Ballard and head coach Frank Reich spoke to the media for nearly 20 minutes at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, wrapping up a tumultuous week for the franchise and putting the finishing touches on the preseason storylines. Quarterback once again was the topic du jour, with Jacoby Brissett remaining the lone player on the active roster at the position for a second straight day.
He’ll soon have company.
Veteran backup Brian Hoyer was scheduled to visit Indianapolis on Sunday night, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, who called the quarterback the “front-runner” for the job assuming a deal can be reached. Ballard, in his third season as the Colts general manager, only reiterated his belief in the importance of a strong backup quarterback and confirmed the team is looking at several options.
“We’re working through it,” he said. “We want to get the right guy for us, and we know there’s some possibilities out there. But we’re working through it, and we’ll have him in the building here soon.”
Hoyer is a 10-year vet who has 37 career starts for five franchises. He’s also spent parts of five seasons as Tom Brady’s backup with the New England Patriots.
The Pats released Hoyer during the 53-man countdown Saturday, choosing to go with rookie Jarrett Stidham instead. Hoyer has 9,902 career passing yards with 48 touchdowns and 30 interceptions. He’s 16-21 as a starter, including an 0-6 stint with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017.
There is a tangential connection between Hoyer and Reich. The quarterback played two games, with one start, for the Arizona Cardinals in 2012 when Reich was the wide receivers coach.
Reich was asked Sunday if he’s concerned about the timing of a quarterback signing and the challenge of getting the new player up to speed ahead of next weekend’s season opener at the Los Angeles Chargers.
“In the scenarios that we’re talking about right now, no,” he said. “All the scenarios that we’re talking about behind closed doors, they’re obviously all scenarios that we think put us in a winning position in Week 1.”
The Colts worked out a host of veteran backups last week, including Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Brock Osweiler. The team also reportedly brought David Fales in for a visit this weekend. There’s also a question about how Chad Kelly fits into the equation. The former Ole Miss star is serving a two-game suspension to start the regular season but was impressive in preseason play. He completed 74 % of his passes for 583 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and started the final two games.
Indianapolis is intrigued by Kelly’s upside, and it’s unclear whether a new addition will be viewed as a long-term or short-term answer.
“We want to make sure we make the right decision both in the short term and in the long term,” Ballard said. “I know that doesn’t exactly answer your question, but we’re working through both scenarios. I’ll tell you that.”
The Colts claimed just one player off waivers, former Buffalo Bills cornerback Ryan Lewis. The 25-year-old entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Pitt and made 15 tackles, with two forced fumbles and three passes broken up last season.
At 6-foot and 195 pounds, he fits Indianapolis’ preference for long and lanky players at the position.
“We kind of had our eyes on Lewis here for awhile,” Ballard said. “Last year, we tried to get him. We see a similar guy (to the current cornerback group). He’s big and fast. He’s really good on (special) teams, and we think he’s got some upside at corner.”
Special-teams ace Chris Milton was waived to make room on the roster.
The Colts signed six players to the practice squad Sunday and have four positions left to fill.
Rookie offensive tackle Jackson Barton – a sixth-round pick out of Utah – cornerback Jalen Collins, undrafted rookie wide receiver Ashton Dulin, offensive guard Jake Eldrenkamp, linebacker Skai Moore and quarterback Phillip Walker are the initial members of the squad.