Colts: Braden Smith’s contract negotiations could be complicated

Colts RT Braden Smith (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Colts RT Braden Smith (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Indianapolis Colts are blessed with one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, and they have general manager Chris Ballard to thank for that, as he nabbed the likes of Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith during the 2018 draft.

With both studs entering their fourth year in the league, the time is coming for them to enter negotiations for a potential extension, if they haven’t already.

Everything we’ve heard on that front suggests the Colts are embroiled in talks with both stars, though Nelson’s extension could be delayed until potentially next offseason after Indianapolis picked up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

In any event, the Colts would love to reach an agreement with Smith before he hits unrestricted free agency next offseason. We would all agree the former second-round pick deserves to be made one of the highest-paid right tackles in the league, right?

Well, this stat regarding Smith’s dominance in 2020 might complicate things, as he played the most pass-blocking snaps (471) of any tackle without allowing a sack.

This Braden Smith stat might complicate contract negotiations for the Colts.

As far as annual average value is concerned, let’s take a closer look at the current highest-paid right tackles in the league for 2021.

  • Lane Johnson: $18 million
  • Jack Conklin: $14 million
  • Taylor Moton: $13.75 million
  • La’el Collins: $10 million
  • Trent Brown: $9 million
  • Halapoulivaati Vaitai: $9 million

For as much as Smith might deserve to reset the market at RT, the Colts simply don’t have the financial bandwidth to pay him that much, especially with expensive deals looming for Nelson and Darius Leonard, and after they inherited Carson Wentz’s contract.

Despite that, Smith’s body of work over his first three seasons proves he deserves to at least rank second or third in the right tackle AAV pecking order. In 2020, he logged 937 snaps, surrendering just three penalties and the aforementioned zero sacks.

In 2019, Smith’s contributions once again flew under the radar, as he committed just five penalties and earned a 79.8 blocking grade from Pro Football Focus. As a rookie in 2018, he allowed just three sacks and logged three penalties while playing 75% of the offensive snaps.

Though the right tackle position isn’t held in as high of a regard as center or left tackle, players like Smith are helping change that narrative.

Regardless of where you stand in terms of how much the 25-year-old should be paid this offseason, the sheer excellence he’s displayed over his first three seasons means Indy might find negotiations to be a little more complicated than they initially expected.

In other words, don’t expect a team-friendly agreement to happen overnight. This one is going to be more drawn out than initially expected.