Braden Smith

Largest 2023 Cap Hits: Offense

The NFL’s salary cap once again ballooned by more than $10MM, rising from its $208.2MM perch to $224.8MM. Factoring in the pandemic-induced 2021 regression, the NFL’s salary risen has climbed by more than $42MM since 2021.

This has allowed teams more opportunities for roster additions and opened the door for more lucrative player deals — at most positions, at least. However, it does not look like this season will include a $40MM player cap number. The Browns avoided a record-shattering Deshaun Watson $54.9MM hit by restructuring the quarterback’s fully guaranteed contract, calling for monster figures from 2024-26.

Here are the largest cap hits for teams on the offensive side going into training camp:

  1. Patrick Mahomes, QB (Chiefs): $39.69MM
  2. Ryan Tannehill, QB (Titans): $36.6MM
  3. Jared Goff, QB (Lions): $30.98MM
  4. Jake Matthews, T (Falcons): $28.36MM
  5. Trent Williams, T (49ers): $27.18MM
  6. Dak Prescott, QB (Cowboys): $26.83MM
  7. Laremy Tunsil, T (Texans): $26.61MM
  8. Jimmy Garoppolo, QB (49ers): $23.8MM
  9. Amari Cooper, WR (Browns): $23.78MM
  10. Mike Evans, WR (Buccaneers): $23.69MM
  11. Ronnie Stanley, T (Ravens): $23.67MM
  12. Joe Thuney, G (Chiefs): $22.12MM
  13. Russell Wilson, QB (Broncos): $22MM
  14. Lamar Jackson, QB (Ravens): $22MM
  15. Daniel Jones, QB (Giants): $21.75MM
  16. David Bakhtiari, T (Packers): $21.29MM
  17. Kirk Cousins, QB (Vikings): $20.25MM
  18. D.J. Moore, WR (Bears): $20.17MM
  19. Matthew Stafford, QB (Rams): $20MM
  20. Brian O’Neill, T (Vikings): $19.66MM
  21. Taylor Decker, T (Lions): $19.35MM
  22. Deshaun Watson, QB (Browns): $19.1MM
  23. Braden Smith, T (Colts): $19MM
  24. Josh Allen, QB (Bills): $18.64MM
  25. Courtland Sutton, WR (Broncos): $18.27MM

As should be expected, quarterbacks dominate this list. Mahomes’ number checks in here despite the Chiefs restructuring his 10-year, $450MM contract in March; the two-time MVP’s cap hit would have set an NFL record had Kansas City not reduced it. The Chiefs did not restructure Mahomes’ deal last year, but if they do not address it — perhaps via a complex reworking — before next season, Mahomes’ $46.93MM number would break an NFL record.

The Titans have not touched Tannehill’s contract this offseason, one that included some trade rumors months ago. This is the final year of Tannehill’s Tennessee extension. Mahomes and Tannehill sat atop this ranking in 2022.

Cousins is also heading into a contract year, after the Vikings opted for a restructure and not an extension this offseason. Cousins does not expect to discuss another Minnesota deal until 2024, when he is due for free agency. Two relatively low cap numbers have started Wilson’s $49MM-per-year extension. The Denver QB’s cap number rises to $35.4MM in 2024 and reaches historic heights ($55.4MM) by ’25. The subject of a Goff extension has come up, and it would bring down the Lions passer’s figure. But Goff remains tied to his Rams-constructed $33.5MM-per-year deal through 2024.

Jackson and Jones’ numbers will rise in the near future, with the latter’s contract calling for a quick spike in 2024. Next year, the Giants QB’s cap hit will be $45MM. Watson’s 2024 hit, as of now, would top that. The Browns signal-caller is on the team’s ’24 payroll at $63.98MM. Long-term consequences aside, the Browns can be expected to once again go to the restructure well with Watson’s outlier contract.

The Raiders did not backload Garoppolo’s three-year contract; it only climbs to $24.25MM on Las Vegas’ 2024 cap sheet. The Bills did backload Allen’s pact. Its team-friendly years are done after 2023; the six-year accord spikes to $47.1MM on Buffalo’s cap next year. The Cowboys have gone to the restructure well with Prescott. Like Watson, the Cowboys quarterback is tied to a seemingly untenable 2024 cap number. The March restructure resulted in Prescott’s 2024 number rising to $59.46MM. Two seasons remain on that $40MM-AAV extension.

Another notable cap hold that should be mentioned is Tom Brady‘s. When the Buccaneers did not sign the again-retired QB to another contract before the 2023 league year, his $35.1MM dead-money figure went onto Tampa Bay’s 2023 cap sheet. The Bucs will absorb that entire amount this year. Brady’s 2022 restructure, after retirement No. 1, led to the $35.1MM figure forming.

Were it not for another O-line-record extension, the Tunsil number would have come in at $35MM this year. Matthews signed an extension last year. Moore would have come in higher on this list were he still on the Panthers, who took on $14.6MM in dead money to move their top wideout for the No. 1 overall pick. Sutton came up regularly in trade rumors, with the Broncos wanting a second-round pick for the sixth-year veteran. The former second-rounder’s high base salary ($14MM) hinders his trade value.

Latest On Colts’ OL Situation

After years of dominant offensive line play, the last season of offensive line coach Chris Strausser‘s tenure saw an uncharacteristically down year for the team’s position group up front. With Strausser now coaching for rival Houston, the Colts are hoping that Tony Sparano can get the line back on track.

After the spring, it appears that the team has no plans to switch up the starting lineup with which they ended the 2022 season, according to Mike Chappell of FOX 59. Left tackle Bernhard Raimann, left guard Quenton Nelson, center Ryan Kelly, right guard Will Fries, and right tackle Braden Smith all return to start in 2023.

After starting his career in an elite manner, Nelson’s play has dropped slightly in the past two years. He’s still a Pro Bowl talent who is in no danger of losing his starting job, but after an extension that would make him the league’s highest paid guard at the time became inevitable, he’s gone from a top-three guard in the NFL to top-20, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Fries, a seventh-round pick from 2021, was asked to step up as a starter for the second-half of last season. It took him a bit to find his footing, but he displayed a few strong performances to end the season, and he’ll start the year opposite Nelson.

At center, Kelly has shown flashes of talent that have made him a top-10 center in the past. He bounced back after a dismal 2021 season but still didn’t quite reach the top-form we saw from him just a few years ago. His job should continue to be safe as backups Wesley French and Dakoda Shepley have a combined zero starts.

On the outside ends of the line, the team will aim to get Raimann and Smith a full year together. Raimann stepped up a few games into the season last year and performed admirably as a rookie at what is widely considered the toughest job on the line. Now, with 11 starts under his belt, Raimann is ready to not only perform but excel on the blindside in Year 2. Smith continues to be a bright spot on the line, even in a down year for the group. The only challenge with Smith seems to be keeping him on the field. Smith has missed nine games since the start of the 2020 season, and keeping him healthy throughout the year could be big for the integrity of the line.

The roster consistency gave Indianapolis the luxury of not needing to do much to address the position group this offseason. No big men were added in free agency, but the team added two rookies in the draft in fourth-round pick Blake Freeland out of BYU and seventh-round pick Jake Witt out of Northern Michigan. While Witt has an NFL frame that could help him contribute as a rookie depth piece if needed, he’s likely a project that needs a bit of time to develop. Freeland, on the other hand, looks a bit more NFL-ready and is expected to stand in as the team’s swing tackle as a rookie. If Smith does end up missing any time or Raimann experiences a bit of a sophomore slump, Freeland should be the first name off the bench to fill in.

So, that’s the situation heading into 2023. There’s a little concern over the lack of personnel adjustments after a disappointing performance in 2022, but there’s hope that consistency and a new face in the coaching staff will help push this group to its usual dominance. They also inserted that fresh blood that has potential to energize the line, if necessary.

Latest On Colts’ Offensive Line Changes

For years, the Colts deployed one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. The holdovers from those years have since been rewarded with top-market extensions. This season’s Eric Fisher and Mark Glowinski replacement options have helped lead to a regression, inviting questions about the highly paid unit.

Early-season starters Matt Pryor and Danny Pinter have been either relocated or benched. The Pryor-at-left tackle experiment is over, and although the Colts did not see great returns from the Bernhard Raimann-vs.-Bradley Chubb matchup in Week 5, they are turning to the third-round rookie full-time on the blindside.

We just think he has the makeup; he has the physical talent,” Frank Reich said, via the Indianapolis Star’s Joel Erickson. “We understand — like a lot of our young players — it’s a process. You look at Alec [Pierce], you look at Jelani [Woods], they get better fast, the more they play. … So we’re just going to put him in there, and we’re going to play.

We feel like he’s got a lot of upside. Right now, I’d be willing to tell you we think that’s going to be our left tackle.”

Raimann seizing the blindside reins would be a welcome sight for the Colts, who have seen this position go through some turbulence since Anthony Castonzo‘s retirement. The team signed Fisher last year, but after his Achilles tear in the 2020 AFC championship game, the longtime Chiefs starter was unavailable to start last season. The Colts used Julie’n Davenport at the marquee O-line spot to start last season and did receive 15 Fisher starts once he was healthy. But the Colts did not re-sign Fisher, who remains a free agent. They tried Pryor at left tackle to start the season, working in Raimann off the bench. Now, it will be Raimann playing throughout.

A 25-year-old prospect out of Central Michigan, Raimann committed four holding penalties in the Colts’ overtime win last week. He has not been charged with any sacks allowed yet; Pryor has given up five, leading to questions about his starter status going forward. A 2020 fifth-round pick, Pinter did not start in Week 5 but replaced an injured Ryan Kelly. Indy’s Pro Bowl was back at practice this week.

It remains to be seen how the Colts will play it on the right side. Citing run-blocking aid, the Colts shifted longtime right tackle Braden Smith to right guard during the Denver outing. Smith has been Indianapolis’ right tackle since October 2018, shortly after the team drafted him in Round 2, and signed a four-year, $70MM deal to man that spot. That contract sits fourth among right tackles, in terms of AAV. If the Colts are planning a longer-term Smith guard foray, their guard commitments — headed by Quenton Nelson‘s position-record $20MM-per-year pact — reside on their own cost tier.

The Colts shifted Pryor to right tackle in Week 5, but the move did not work out. A veteran backup who re-signed with the Colts (one year, $5.5MM) this offseason, Pryor rates as Pro Football Focus’ sixth-worst-graded tackle. This performance has contributed to Matt Ryan‘s 11 fumbles — the most through five games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger — and 21 sacks taken.

Indianapolis has Dennis Kelly as another right tackle option. Kelly, 32, has 51 career starts — mostly at right tackle. He started 16 games for the 2020 Titans at that position. The 11th-year blocker missed time this summer due to knee surgery and has not played an offensive snap this season. The Colts viewed Kelly as a swingman upon signing him for no guaranteed money. Kelly, understandably, said (via Erickson) he wants a chance to start again.

As he was coming off of his injury in training camp, you can see him getting more and more physically comfortable, comfortable in the system,” Reich said. “Love that he’s here, and we’ll continue to evaluate.”

NFL COVID-19 List Updates: 1/1/22

Here are the New Year’s Day activations from and placements on the reserve/COVID-19 lists:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: G Oli Udoh

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Giants

New York Jets

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: CB Bryce Hall

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans

Colts Reached Out To Philip Rivers

The NFL revising its COVID-19 protocols yet again may allow the Colts to dodge a bullet. Carson Wentz is unvaccinated and tested positive Tuesday, but Frank Reich said he would start Sunday if he is asymptomatic, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets. Current Colts backup Sam Ehlinger would start if Wentz is experiencing symptoms at that point.

Reich has also remained in contact with the Colts’ 2020 starter, Philip Rivers. The two discussed the current Colts QB bind, Zak Keefer of The Athletic tweets. However, it does not seem like Rivers will come out of retirement to replace Wentz. Reich said nothing is developing on that front.

Rivers, 40, retired after spending last season with the Colts, but the current high school coach has said he would consider a return to join a contender. He was open to joining the Saints once Jameis Winston went down earlier this season. In his one Colts season, Rivers completed 68% of his passes and finished with a 24-to-11 TD-INT ratio. The Colts traded for Wentz not long after Rivers’ retirement.

Had the NFL not revised its protocols for a second time this month, Wentz would be shut down for Week 17 due to his positive test. Previously, unvaccinated players who tested positive were forced into 10-day quarantines. The NFL has reduced that to five, opening the door for Wentz to play Sunday. A sixth-round rookie, Ehlinger took first-team reps for a stretch after Wentz went down with a foot injury during training camp.

The Colts received more good news regarding their COVID-19 situation Wednesday. They activated offensive line starters Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski, along with cornerback Rock Ya-Sin and defensive end Kemoko Turay. However, right tackle Braden Smith is now on Indianapolis’ virus list. Smith could rejoin his teammates Sunday, however, regardless of vaccination status. Like Wentz, if Smith is not displaying symptoms, he could return Sunday against the Raiders. Smith was the Colts’ lone O-line starter available by the end of Week 16, but the team will have more of its starters on hand against Las Vegas.

Marlon Mack, cornerback T.J. Carrie, safety Jahleel Addae and linebacker Malik Jefferson join Smith as players now on Indy’s virus list.

Colts Sign Braden Smith To $72MM Extension

The Colts announced that they have signed offensive tackle Braden Smith to a contract extension. His deal is a four-year, $70MM add-on worth up to $72.4MM with $42MM guaranteed (Twitter link via’s Ian Rapoport). That’s a big step up for Smith, who had one year and $2.43MM to go on his rookie deal.

The right tackle market moved in late June, with Ryan Ramczyk scoring a $19.2MM-per-year deal, topping Lane Johnson‘s $18MM AAV figure. Now, Smith stands as the third-highest paid RT in the NFL, slotting ahead of the Panthers’ Taylor Moton.

Smith played right guard at Auburn before transitioning to right tackle as a pro. The former No. 37 overall pick has emerged as one of the league’s top young tackles and has helped the Colts form a top-tier offensive line. Pro Football Focus has graded Smith (43 career starts) as a top-20 tackle in each of the past two seasons.

The Colts already have Ryan Kelly tied to high-end center money ($12.4MM on average) and Quenton Nelson could soon become the NFL’s highest-paid guard. Nelson is 3-for-3 in first-team All-Pro appearances and has not missed a game. Fortunately, the Colts have some time to work out Nelson’s deal — he’s inked through 2022, via the fifth-year option. But, because Smith was drafted a round later, he beat his higher-profile line mate to a big-ticket extension.

Colts, RT Braden Smith Discussing Extension

Jim Irsay said on draft weekend he expected the Colts to extend Darius Leonard and Braden Smith, two second-round picks from the 2018 draft. The Colts have gotten to work on one of those contracts.

Smith’s agent has entered talks with the Colts on a long-term deal, Stephen Holder of The Athletic notes (subscription required). The fourth-year right tackle is going into a contract year and is set to make $2.43MM. His salaries will likely be much higher in the future.

The right tackle market moved Wednesday morning, with Ryan Ramczyk‘s Saints extension giving the NFL a new benchmark for the oft-overlooked position. Ramczyk is now tied to a $19.2MM-per-year deal, which tops Lane Johnson‘s AAV figure ($18MM). No other right tackle earns more than $14MM annually, but the Panthers may factor into this equation soon. They have just more than two weeks to extend franchise-tagged right tackle Taylor Moton.

A right guard at Auburn, Smith transitioned to right tackle as a Colts rookie. The former No. 37 overall pick has emerged as one of the league’s top young tackles and has helped the Colts form a top-tier offensive line. Pro Football Focus has graded Smith (43 career starts) as a top-20 tackle in each of the past two seasons.

While Smith likely will not top Ramczyk’s price, he stands to be an eight-figure-per-year player on an Indianapolis O-line that should have three of those in the not-too-distant future. The Colts already have Ryan Kelly tied to high-end center money ($12.4MM on average), and they should be expected to make Quenton Nelson the NFL’s highest-paid guard. It is difficult to do more to state a case for such a contract; Nelson is 3-for-3 in first-team All-Pro appearances and has not missed a game. But the Colts have the 2018 first-round pick signed through 2022, via the fifth-year option. Because Smith was drafted a round later, he will likely beat his higher-profile line mate to a big-ticket extension.

Colts Expect To Extend Darius Leonard, Braden Smith

The Colts are busy with the draft, but when speaking to the media about their picks, owner Jim Irsay also revealed the team’s plans for a couple of their guys currently on the roster.

Irsay said the Colts expect to extend linebacker Darius Leonard, and also offensive tackle Braden Smith ‘if the numbers work,’ Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets. As Holder notes, Smith’s status beyond this season had previously seemed a bit more up in the air, while it was a foregone conclusion that the team would attempt to lock up Leonard.

Both players are members of Indy’s 2018 draft class, and in fact they were picked back to back at 36th and 37th overall. Each is entering the final year of their respective rookie deals, and are currently set to be free agents after this season. Leonard became an instant star, and has made an All-Pro team in each of his first three campaigns.

He was also the league’s Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2018. He’ll likely be seeking, and get, top of the inside linebacker market money. Smith has started at least 13 games in every season, and has been very solid but not spectacular.

It’ll be interesting to see what kind of contract he’ll be seeking, as he’s never been elite but also is a dependable starter and only just turned 25.

No wonder Irsay cautioned the finances could be an issue with him. Either way, it sounds like something will get done soon to keep Leonard in Indianapolis long-term.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/30/20

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Placed on reserve/COVID-19 list: K Sam Koch

Cleveland Browns

Indianapolis Colts

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Chargers

  • Activated from reserve/COVID-19 list: C Ryan Groy; Groy remains on IR

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

South Rumors: Falcons, Buccaneers, Morgan

The Falcons will be looking for a new kicker for temporary purposes. Matt Bryant will miss Atlanta’s Week 7 Monday night game, Dan Quinn said. The longtime Falcons kicker is dealing with a strained hamstring, per Vaughn McClure of, who adds Giorgio Tavecchio is among the names the Falcons are considering as a replacement. Tavecchio was briefly affiliated with the Falcons earlier this year, but Bryant’s kicked in all six Falcon games in his 10th season with the franchise. He hasn’t missed a game since he was limited to 11 appearances in 2015. Tavecchio will be among “a number of kickers” considered during the lead-up to the Falcons’ home Monday-nighter against the Giants.

Here’s the latest from the South divisions, continuing on the Atlanta injury front:

  • Another week of recovery will likely be required for Devonta Freeman, per McClure. The Falcons’ starting running back is has dealt with knee and foot trouble and now has a groin issue to overcome. Atlanta’s gotten by with Tevin Coleman and newcomer Ito Smith in the backfield.
  • Ali Marpet became the latest Buccaneers starter to sign a lucrative extension, joining Mike Evans and Cameron Brate in doing so this year. More re-ups could be on track. Kwon Alexander and the Bucs are still talking an extension, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. While Stroud writes it’s uncertain if the Bucs want to pay Alexander like a top-tier linebacker — they have Lavonte David on the books at $10MM per year — he’s on the radar. As is fourth-year left tackle Donovan Smith, who’s in a contract year. Despite rarely being viewed as a productive player by Pro Football Focus, Smith is well thought of among Bucs brass, per Stroud. Adam Humphries is another player the Bucs would like to retain, though they have a crowded receiver room. Chris Godwin‘s emerged as Tampa Bay’s No. 3 man and may be Evans’ top complement if DeSean Jackson ($10MM non-guaranteed salary in 2019) isn’t back next year. Humphries’ contract expires after this season.
  • Derrick Morgan will miss a few weeks because of a shoulder injury, Mike Vrabel said. A ninth-year player who dealt with a knee injury during the preseason, Morgan has played in all six Titans games this year and has only missed more than two games in a season once in the past eight years. Harold Landry will likely start opposite Brian Orakpo in the meantime.
  • Stationed on the Texans‘ PUP list, D’Onta Foreman can return to practice this week but probably won’t, per Bill O’Brien (via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle, on Twitter). Foreman’s been out since late last season because of an Achilles’ tendon tear.
  • Braden Smith appears to have solidified himself as the Colts‘ right tackle. Indianapolis went through several players in hopes of identifying a candidate, but Frank Reich said Monday (via’s Mike Wells, on Twitter) this job will be Smith’s to lose. Smith’s started three games for the Colts this season.
  • Former Lions, Patriots and Bengals linebacker Marquis Flowers worked out for the Texans on Monday, Sarah Barshop of tweets. The Lions cut Flowers last week. He played in 16 games for the Bengals in 2015 and ’16 and suited up for all 19 of the Patriots’ games last year.