Colts’ options moving forward hinge on Andrew Luck, one way or the other

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SEATTLE, WA - OCTOBER 01: Quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts walks on the sidelines in the second quarter of the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on October 1, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Jonathan Ferrey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Even under normal conditions, Chris Ballard faces daunting personnel questions in his attempt at returning the Indianapolis Colts to relevancy.

The first-time general manager has the resources – probably a top-3 pick in next April’s NFL draft, oodles of cap space, an owner willing to pony up for free-agent talent – to continue the massive renovation process he began 11 months ago.

But let’s cut to the chase: these are not normal times for the Colts. And that uncertainty surrounds the status of their most prized commodity: Andrew Luck.

The team’s $140 million quarterback remains in rehab mode following January surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. He’s expected to return to town in the next week or so after spending a month in Europe and receiving alternative treatment on the shoulder.

A source with knowledge of the situation insisted the Colts have received “positive’’ feedback from Luck over the past month and he shortly “will begin throwing again.’’

So in the next few weeks, things likely will crystalize, one way or the other. That’s when owner Jim Irsay and Ballard will learn where they stand with Luck, one way or the other.

Either Luck’s shoulder responds favorably when he resumes the throwing portion of his rehab, or the soreness and inflammation return and corrective surgery – tenodesis, which involves relocating the biceps tendon attached to the repaired labrum – is required. The normal recovery time from that procedure reportedly is three-to-six months.

If Luck is able to throw with regularity and without discomfort, the Colts would have every reason to believe they’re set at the most influential position. Not only would they have their cornerstone player back under center for 2018, but a proven backup as well in Jacoby Brissett.

Ballard would be able to use those resources in free agency and the draft to address the line and other deficiencies on offense, and a defense that lacks anything approaching difference-making talent.

But if Luck’s comeback hits another snag, then all bets are off and things figure to get dicey.

The important aspect of an otherwise uncertain situation is clarity should come sooner, not later. Luck experienced the soreness and inflammation in his right shoulder in October after four controlled throwing sessions in practice.

If another procedure is required, it would occur soon enough for Ballard and Irsay consider their options before mapping out free agency and the draft. Those would include:

  • Waiting and hoping the rehab window from a second surgery:

Three-to-six months, remember? – allows Luck to be ready for the start of next season. Six months would have him back by late June or mid-July. No problem.

But the team waited and hoped Luck would be ready for some portion of this season. By the actions taken, management expected him to return to the field by late-September, mid-October.

Obviously, that didn’t happen. Luck hasn’t stepped on the field since leading the Jan. 1 comeback against Jacksonville. He will have missed 26 of 48 games the last three seasons.

  • Plotting the immediate future with Brissett as the guy:

He’s endured the expected ups and downs as a first-year starter – keep in mind, he arrived in town eight days before the season opener – but has kept the Colts relevant and competitive when things really could have gone down a much darker hole.

A hypothetical worth considering: If Jacoby Brissett is part of the ’18 NFL Draft, would he merit the No. 1 overall pick ahead of USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen or Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield?

If Irsay and Ballard are convinced Brissett can develop into a QB capable of winning a championship with a solid team around him, they can use those resources to upgrade his supporting cast.

If Luck is ready for the ’18 season opener, super. If not, the offense belongs to Brissett.

  • Saying the heck with it and using what probably will be the 3rd overall pick in the draft on the next quarterback of the future:

NFL personnel experts will spend the next four months dissecting the strengths and weaknesses of what appears to be a promising group.

Again, does Darnold, Rosen, Allen, Mayfield or another draft-eligible QB possess better upside than Brissett? If so, roll the dice.

Do that, though, and you’re not going solve one of the team’s most pressing needs: pass rusher. North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb would address that.

A healthy Andrew Luck would enable the Colts to make major strides in the coming months and at worst return as a viable AFC South contender in 2018.

Anything less and brace yourself for another offseason of uncertainty.

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