Bobby Okereke

Colts Targeting August Quenton Nelson Extension; Kenny Moore Deal Tabled To 2023?

Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith each signed their extensions during Colts training camp, the former in September 2020 and the latter in July of last year. The team is hoping to have Quenton Nelson follow that path.

The Colts’ goal is to have Nelson signed by the end of this month, according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com. All other extension business is on hold. This includes Kenny Moore, who lobbied for a new contract this offseason, and Bobby Okereke, whom Fowler adds has emerged on the team’s extension radar. A 2019 third-round pick, Okereke is entering a contract year.

Nelson, who is 4-for-4 in Pro Bowl nods to start his career, is going into his fifth-year option season ($13.75MM). Neither Kelly nor Smith played a game on an expiring contract, with the former signing ahead of his fifth season and the latter before his fourth. This trio forms the core of what has been one of the NFL’s best offensive lines, and Nelson’s looming extension has undoubtedly influenced other Colts moves up front. Eric Fisher is gone, and the team also did not bring back four-year guard starter Mark Glowinski. Low-cost players are now in place at left tackle and right guard, respectively.

[RELATED: Assessing The Colts’ 2022 Offseason]

Colts GM Chris Ballard earmarked this offseason as the point in which a Nelson extension should come to pass, but Nelson’s age (26) and early-career performance do provide some complications here. The Notre Dame product’s second contract should be well north of the current guard salary ceiling (Brandon Scherff‘s $16.5MM-per-year Jaguars deal). Nelson taking the guard market to tackle territory and past $20MM per year should be considered in play.

If the parties cannot agree on a deal this year, the Colts have the option of a 2023 franchise tag. Guards are rarely tagged, as all O-line positions are grouped together on the tag, but the Commanders used this route with Scherff in 2020 and 2021.

With the Colts’ top two skill-position players — Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr. — going into contract years in 2023, the team’s offense could become far more expensive by next year. On defense, Moore’s deal will need to be addressed by then. Under contract for two more seasons, Moore skipped some of Indy’s voluntary offseason program. Offseason reports indicated the sides were well apart on terms. Currently tied to an $8.33MM-per-year deal, Moore should be expected to move the slot cornerback position into eight-figure-AAV territory. But he could well have to play another season on his current pact, with Ballard not expected to consider an extension until next year.

The Broncos and Patriots dealt with underpaid corners with two years of team control left in the recent past. Denver gave Chris Harris an incentive package in 2018, while New England authorized a raise for Stephon Gilmore in 2020. (The Broncos gave Harris a raise in 2019, while the Patriots stood pat with Gilmore to lead him off their roster via trade last year.) The latter is now Moore’s teammate and attached to a bigger contract. Moore, who is coming off a Pro Bowl season, has not opted to stage a hold-in measure at training camp.

Colts Sign Third-Round LB Bobby Okereke

The Colts have wrapped up their draft class. The team announced last night that they’ve signed third-round linebacker Bobby Okereke.

Indy selected the Stanford product with the 89th pick of the draft. The 6-foot-1, 239-pound linebacker had a standout collegiate career, compiling 240 tackles, 10.5 sacks, and three forced fumbles in 51 games. He earned an All-PAC-12 Honorable Mention nod in both 2017 and 2018, and he served as one of the team’s captains during his senior campaign.

We learned some discouraging news about the rookie linebacker earlier this month. Back in 2015, a Stanford student told school administrators that she was sexually assaulted by a player on the football team at a fraternity party, and the case went on to make national news. Colts GM Chris Ballard later told beat reporters that the player in question was Okereke, although the linebacker was not charged in connection with the alleged incident.

Okereke informed the Colts of the matter, and Ballard said the organization investigated the incident themselves. Because there were no charges filed or disciplinary action against the Stanford product, the Colts went ahead with the selection. Ballard also cited Okereke’s otherwise clean record as one of the reasons for drafting him.

The Colts had been hunting around for a three-down linebacker to pair with Darius Leonard, and the team was apparently encouraged by Okereke’s performance during voluntary workouts. The rookie will likely be competing with Anthony Walker for the club’s starting MIKE spot.

As we mentioned, the organization has now signed all of their 10 draft picks, which we’ve listed below:

Latest On Colts LB Bobby Okereke

In 2015, a Stanford student told school administrators that she was sexually assaulted by a player on the football team at a fraternity party. The case made national news, though neither the accuser nor the alleged perpetrator were identified. On Wednesday morning, Colts GM Chris Ballard told beat reporters that the player in question was linebacker Bobby Okereke, the club’s third-round pick in the 2019 draft (Twitter link via Stephen Holder of the The Athletic). 

Okereke was not charged in connection to the alleged incident and he personally informed the Colts of the matter prior to the draft, according to Ballard. The GM added that the Colts investigate the incident and reviewed the documents from the Title IX case. Because there were no charges filed or disciplinary action against the Stanford product, the Colts went ahead with the selection.

Ballard also cited Okereke’s otherwise clean record as one of the reasons for drafting him. The Colts did not interview the accuser beforehand because Ballard did not feel that was necessary given the other information gathered by the team.

The linebacker reportedly impressed during voluntary workouts in May and is expected to compete with Anthony Walker for the club’s starting MIKE spot.

AFC South Notes: Mosley, Jaguars, Texans

While the Colts have shown considerable restraint in free agency during Chris Ballard‘s three offseasons as GM, continuing this year despite the team’s league-high cap space figure, they did identify a position they wanted. They just didn’t fill it until the draft. Previously mentioned as one of C.J. Mosley‘s many suitors, the Colts made a “serious” run at the inside linebacker in March, Albert Breer of SI.com notes. Clearly, Ballard was not prepared to go as high as the Jets did — $17MM AAV — for the sixth-year linebacker. The Colts were not mentioned as a finalist for Mosley, with the Ravens increasing their offer before Mosley opted for New York.

Indianapolis wanted a three-down linebacker to pair with Darius Leonard and is encouraged by third-round pick Bobby Okereke‘s outlook early, Breer adds. Known more (at this point) for Pat McAfee’s announcement of his Colts arrival, Okereke being longer and bigger than Devin White or Devin Bush (though not by much at 6-foot-1, 239 pounds) was important to Ballard’s staff — just as Leonard’s frame appealed to the Colts last year.

Here is the latest news coming out of the AFC South:

  • Continuing with the Colts, the team’s decision to trade out of the first round and pick up a 2020 second-rounder in the process earned praise by multiple NFL executives as the best move of the draft, Mike Sando of ESPN.com writes (ESPN+ link). The Colts acquiring the Redskins’ 2020 second-rounder strikes the anonymous execs as a value move, given that Washington’s picks are likely to be higher than Indianapolis’ next year, and labeled moving out of a late first-round spot this year was savvy given the top-heavy makeup of the 2019 class. The Colts chose Rock Ya-Sin, Ben Banogu and Parris Campbell in the second round.
  • The JaguarsJosh Allen pick will protect them in the event prospective negotiations with Yannick Ngakoue escalate to an undesirable price point, offers another exec (via Sando). Ngakoue left Jaguars workouts in a likely contract-related maneuver. The defensive end became extension-eligible this year, but talks are not believed to have begun yet. The Jaguars already have Calais Campbell making $15MM per year, but given the new deals handed to Frank Clark and DeMarcus Lawrence, Ngakoue will likely aim higher than Campbell’s pact when the time comes. Allen is locked into his rookie contract until 2022. Conversely, an exec from a team in need of a pass rusher said his team did not have Allen graded particularly high. Said exec viewed the Kentucky product may end up as an off-ball linebacker at some point.
  • A year ago, the Texans hired John Ritcher from the Jets to be their southeast area scout. They have now promoted him to a national scout, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle notes. Ritcher joins Mozique McCurtis as the Texans’ national scouts.