INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis Colts have signed a player they hope never steps on the field, but will have confidence in if he does.
Nick Foles, a veteran quarterback with 56 starts and a Super Bowl championship/MVP on his resume, has signed a two-year contract to serve as Matt Ryan’s backup, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.
It’s the latest sign the Colts believe they have a team capable of at least winning the AFC South in 2022.
Foles, 33, represents the proven depth that was missing behind Ryan. The others in the QB room – 2021 6th-round pick Sam Ehlinger, James Morgan and undrafted rookie Jack Coan – haven’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game.
Ryan, 37 and heading into his 15th season, has missed only three of a possible 225 regular-season games, including just one since 2010.
However, the NFL is a collision sport, and injuries happen.
Prior to Foles’ acquisition, the Colts would have hoped Ryan’s ironman tendencies continued. That’s risky.
Speculation about adding Foles had intensified in recent days, and the team did nothing to deflect things.
Ballard has kept the door open for adding a veteran behind Ryan, and coach Frank Reich took a similar stance during the recent rookie minicamp. Reich was specifically asked about the possibility of adding a veteran QB, and Foles.
“We’re always looking at who makes this team better at every position,’’ he said. “Who are the available veterans? Who can we sign?
“We’ve talked about this a lot. Chris is very methodical about that process. We’re not in a rush. There is a timing to the way things go and the way the roster is put together that is very intentional.’’
Foles would seem to be an ideal fit.
Initially, he has a history with Reich and Ballard.
Reich was Philadelphia’s offensive coordinator when Carson Wentz and Foles were the Eagles’ top quarterbacks. When Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2017, Foles took over and led the Eagles to a 41-33 victory over New England in Super Bowl LII. He passed for 373 yards and two touchdowns, caught a 1-yard TD pass on the “Philly Special,’’ and was named the game’s MVP.
In 2016, Foles was Alex Smith’s backup with Kansas City, and Ballard was the Chiefs’ director of football operations. On one occasion, Foles replaced Smith early in the first quarter in a week 8 meeting the Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. He passed for 223 yards and two TDs in a 30-14 win.
Reich and Foles have formed a tight bond. Earlier this month, Reich presented Foles with the Call to Courage Award in Buffalo, N.Y., an award given to an NFL who exhibits Christian character, on and off the field.
During last summer’s training camp at Grand Park Campus in Westfield, the shared respect between them was evident. Wentz had just suffered a broken foot and speculation swirled the Colts might be interested in acquiring Foles in a trade with the Chicago Bears.
“I don’t mind talking about Nick Foles,’’ Reich said. “I love Nick Foles . . . he’s a great player. I think he’s proven that. I think he’s a great teammate.
“There’s nothing about Nick Foles that I don’t like. I think he’s a winner. He’s certainly a guy that fits our kind of culture, but he plays for the Chicago Bears.’’
The feelings were mutual.
“Listen, Frank Reich is one of my favorite, if not the favorite, coaches of all time,’’ Foles said. “He understands me as a player. He understands me as a person.
“He knows me. He understands me. You all watched the 2017 season and the playoffs where he changed the offense and built it around me, and you saw what happened. He understands my mentality as a player, and he was able to build it around me and put me in a successful position, and my teammates.’’
In 10 seasons and 68 games with Philadelphia, St. Louis, Kansas City, Jacksonville and Chicago, Foles has passed for 14,003 yards with 82 touchdowns, 43 interceptions and an 87.3 passer rating. He’s completed 62.4% of his passes.
Foles earned a Pro Bowl bid in 2013 with the Eagles when he replaced Michael Vick and led the team to an 8-2 record and the NFC East championship. He led the NFL with a 119.2 passer rating which was the result of 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
The addition of Foles is the latest move by Ballard in a busy, transformational offseason.
Along with jettisoning Wentz in a trade with Washington and replacing him with Ryan in a subsequent trade with the Atlanta Falcons, he acquired edge pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue in a trade with the Las Vegas Raiders and signed free-agent cornerback Stephon Gilmore to a two-year, $23 million contract.
There also have been veteran signings that reinforced other positions: safeties Rodney McLeod and Armani Watts, offensive tackle Dennis Kelly, cornerback Brandon Facyson, linebacker/special teams standout Brandon King and running back Phillip Lindsay.
And now, Nick Foles.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.