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.
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.