Colts: Projecting 3 contract extensions for homegrown stars

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) /
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The Indianapolis Colts have been sitting out free agency, for the most part, this season, and the reasoning behind this sudden lack of aggression could come from the fact that GM Chris Ballard is trying to save up for extensions centered around right tackle Braden Smith, linebacker Darius Leonard, and left guard Quenton Nelson.

While the lack of aggression will get Colts fans irritated, these three need to be retained long-term.

Smith is one of the best right tackles in the game, Leonard is the heart and soul of the Indianapolis defense, and Nelson might be as dominant at his position as any player in the league.

It’s as simple as that.

The Colts might need to break the bank for these three, as all of these new contracts could be among the league’s most expensive. If Ballard is smart, however, he’ll do enough cap logistics to help all three stay in Indianapolis long-term.

With the league’s new TV deal expected to lead to a massive cap increase in 2022, what will extensions for these three star players look like when it comes time to pay up for a new contract?

What will extensions look like for these three Colts studs?

Braden Smith, Indianapolis Colts
NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA – DECEMBER 16: Braden Smith #72 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

RT Braden Smith: 4 years, $52 Million ($13 million AAV)

Smith would be the fifth most expensive right tackle in the league if he agreed to this extension, as Lane Johnson, Trent Brown, Jack Conklin, and Taylor Moton would all be out in front of him in terms of average annual value.

While Smith has not made a Pro Bowl or All-Pro team, which could go a long way towards driving his value down a bit, he has proven to be one of the best run and pass-blocking tackles in this game, and the former Auburn star will likely use $50 million as a starting point when it comes time to negotiate.

Is Braden Smith worth the money for the Colts?

Smith, who has been talked about as a potential left tackle candidate after Anthony Castonzo’s retirement, might end up getting paid even more than that if he makes the switch to the left side before his contract is up. If that happens, $52 million for a starting left tackle would be a very economical move.

Smith hasn’t yet moved into that elite tier, but the Colts giving him this contract could be a sign that they believe that with a year or so of development, Smith will end up in that range soon enough. Letting someone of his caliber hit the open market would be an egregious mistake.