Colts: Joe Thuney’s contract gives insight for Quenton Nelson’s future extension

ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 09: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images)
ORCHARD PARK, NY - JANUARY 09: Quenton Nelson #56 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Timothy T Ludwig/Getty Images) /

When OL Joe Thuney became the only player of any consequence to escape New England this offseason instead of joining Bill Belichick’s merry band of thieves, he also gave the Colts a nice blueprint for their next big piece of business.

At least … we think the Colts are still into doing business … right?

Weren’t they supposed to be just as replete with cap space this offseason as the spend-crazy Patriots?

But we digress.

Thuney was an active participant in proving that the salary cap is just an illusion this offseason, agreeing to a monster five-year, $80 million with the Kansas City Chiefs, a team we were told was basically already capped out and preoccupied with retaining its stars.

Once again, the market for guards has been reset, and if Indianapolis wants to keep Quenton Nelson in place at his strongest position, they now know the format that’ll take.

Can the Colts learn from Joe Thuney’s deal for a Quenton Nelson extension?

Of course, the 28-year-old Thuney hasn’t been quite as much of a force as Nelson has; there’s a difference between excelling and defining a position for the generation to come like the Colts’ rock has.

Neither Thuney nor Nelson has missed a regular-season game in their respective careers, and the ex-Patriot went through some of the “position change” talk last season that Nelson is currently facing in the wake of Anthony Castonzo’s retirement. We can confidently say after Thuney’s deal, though, that he’ll be remaining at guard, and the likelihood Nelson does, too, increases by the day.

New England and Indianapolis have treated their excessive cap space entirely differently this offseason. The Patriots, sensing the end of Bill Belichick’s rope perhaps, have spent on anyone and everyone, assembling another two-TE set for the ages.

Chris Ballard? He’s stayed back, likely eyeing future extensions that’ll take up at least half of this wiggle room.

Darius Leonard will be due between $17 and $18 million annually before next offseason. Based on Thuney’s $16 million AAV, couldn’t we ticket Nelson for the exact same deal?

Don’t think of it as “hesitancy” to spend on Ballard’s end; think of it as contending with a shifting marketplace while trying to lock down two internal generational talents.

The Nelson deal should be coming — he and Leonard are the dual engine of the Colts’ future success. After Thuney’s contract, it should only escalate slightly.