Last season the Colts did something out of the ordinary when they made final cuts, they retained three quarterbacks on the regular season roster. The last time the Colts carried three quarterbacks was in 2003, when Brock Huard and Cory Sauter joined Peyton Manning as backups in Manning’s third season.
It was widely popular that the Colts chose to do so because Jim Sorgi, Colts sole backup from 2004 to 2008 had knowledge and experience of the Colts offense that rookie Curtis Painter could not acquire in the short months leading up to the regular season. It was realistic to be concerned that releasing Sorgi prior to the regular season would encourage teams to sign him just for his insight into the offense as well. When Sorgi was released, it seemed clear that the Colts were confident in Painter’s physical abilities and were intent with him filling the primary backup role.
In fact, Colts President Bill Polian confirmed that the Colts are happy with Painter as Manning’s insurance policy. He also suggested that the Colts are allowing the other young quarterbacks to compete for a potential third spot on the regular season roster, somewhat surprising given the team’s history.
After the final session of the Colts organized team activities, Bill Polian addressed Tom Brandstater’s addition to the roster, “We’d like to see what’s there. The backup quarterback is Curtis Painter. The question is: Do we carry a third, and if we do, who is it?”
The team was certainly able to retain a highly talented roster last season, even with a third quarterback, playing in their second Super Bowl in four years. Still, two things are certain heading into the new season. First, Sorgi was on the team but did nothing on the field to justify his spot. Second, the Colts have a couple of positions with relatively shallow depth that could use an additional roster spot for insurance more than a third quarterback who is unlikely to ever see the field.
Imagine retaining a third quarterback on the regular season roster, like newly acquired Tom Brandstater, or rookie Tim Hiller. Then imagine cutting a player that shows some potential at cornerback, along the offensive line, or among the linebackers only to regret it later. One thing is certainly true of Bill Polian, he will not make a decision to retain or cut any player on the roster when another more-skilled player can be retained at another position. Hiller, Brandstater, and Drew Willy will have a lot of proving to do if they intend to justify that position.
If Polian is truly considering a third quarterback in 2010, undrafted free agents competing at other positions should also be very aware that they need to prove themselves to the fullest extent to persuade the Colts front office that the final roster spot would be better served providing depth for other areas on the team.