The Indianapolis Colts’ restrained approach to free agency had fans ready to go purchase pitchforks and form an angry mob outside of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Then, however, it became clear that the Colts’ were readying extensions for some of their homegrown stars. While that list was never made official, it was widely surmised the likes of Darius Leonard, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith were the most likely candidates.
Though those rumors didn’t exactly clear things up on the free agent front — how would extensions that wouldn’t kick in until next season, impact the Colts’ spending budget this offseason? — it was enough to convince fans to relax a bit.
Unfortunately for fans, they might go back to making a fuss on social media after they realize Indianapolis’ self-imposed deadline for these deadlines (Week 1 of the 2021 season) excluded arguably the best player on the roster.
Per insider Zak Keefer of The Athletic, who recently spoke with owner Jim Irsay, the Colts are making progress in negotiations with Leonard and Smith.
The 61-year-old seems confident that an agreement will be reached, which is great, but we just have one question: what’s going on with Nelson?
Why aren’t the Colts negotiating an extension with Quenton Nelson?
Let’s start by saying that the Colts are aware that Nelson is a generational blocker and they wouldn’t do anything that would jeopardize his future with the franchise. However, it’s a little troubling that Indy is seemingly willing to let this drag on until next offseason.
It’s also worth noting that Nelson’s extension can get pushed back one year after the Colts exercised his fifth-year option. In other words, the All-Pro left guard won’t hit free agency until 2023, and he’ll presumably reset the market at the position when the time comes.
Of course, the same cannot be said for Leonard and Smith, who don’t have the fifth-year option given that both players were second-round picks back in 2018.
However, wouldn’t it just make sense to knock out three birds with one stone? While it wouldn’t be ideal to have to negotiate three new contract (and lucrative ones at that) right now, at the very least, Nelson’s deal wouldn’t kick in until 2023 since he’s got one year left on his rookie deal.
Nelson’s fifth-year option will guarantee him a $13.75 million salary for next season. That’s obviously well below the pay grade his production and durability warrants, but perhaps Indy’s decision boiled down to poor timing (not on their part, just with how things turned out). After all, it’s not often you see a team sign three marquee talents to extensions in one offseason.
Though the Colts would love to get Nelson locked up for the long haul as soon as humanly possible, fans shouldn’t be overly concerned that Leonard and Smith are ahead of him in the extension pecking order, as their respective rookie contracts are set to expire after 2021.
After all, just because Indianapolis picked up Nelson’s fifth year option and he’s owed $13.75 million next year, doesn’t mean he can’t be extended next offseason.