The Colts have done a lot of work with contract extensions so far this offseason. Cornerback Kenny Moore II was made the highest paid slot corner in the NFL with an extension that is set to pay him 33.3 million dollars over the next four seasons. Punter Rigoberto Sanchez signed a four year 11.6 million dollar contract a few days later to make him one of the highest paid punters in the league. Lastly, the Colts signed long snapper Luke Rhodes to a four year 4.85 million dollar contract as well.
The Colts signed these players well before they needed to this offseason as Ballard is locking up his guys. Who could potentially be next this offseason? In this article, I will be looking at which players could get contract extensions from the team before this upcoming season. To help me with the finer details of potential contracts that each of these players could get, I enlisted the help of Kyle Rapoza of Coltscap.com. Kyle is very knowledgeable when it comes to contracts and how the deals could be structured.
Quick Salary Cap Notes
Before jumping into the potential players who could receive deals, here are some quick notes from Kyle regarding potential cap space going into the 2020 offseason.
A projection will be a little easier in a few weeks once the 53 man roster is set, but I would project the Colts, with a carryover from this current season, to have roughly $110 million in cap space.
One key item of note is that for the 2020 league year, this is the final year of the current CBA. This presents one interesting quirk that teams can take advantage of that may benefit the Colts. In the final year before the CBA ends, teams are permitted to use both the Franchise and Transition tag in the same year. These aren’t too common for teams to use, but if the Colts fail to come to an agreement on an extension, these are options available to them to retain their key players.
Ryan Kelly, Center
Kelly is an outstanding center who is coming off of his best career season in 2018. His mobility and athleticism are among the best in the game and he is also one of the smarter centers in the league. He is an outstanding player who doesn’t get enough recognition around the league for his elite skill set and great play on the field.
Here is what Kyle Rapoza had to say about a potential deal for the talented center: Kelly is under contract for 2020 currently. His 5th year option is valued at $10.35 million. This would rank him as the 4th highest paid center in the NFL. The top ranked center, Mitch Morse, signed a new contract this past offseason. At 26 years old, Kelly could be in line to overtake Morse as the highest value deal if he can prove to stay healthy throughout this season. This would value his next contract at just $11.25 million. A 4 year deal with the guarantees expiring after the first two years is fair for Kelly.
With Kelly, it all comes down to health when discussing a future contract. He is an excellent player on the field, but he has missed quite a few games over the past three seasons. If he can put together a healthy and dominant season in 2019, the Colts should have no doubts when it comes to paying this talented player. Again, he is one of the best in the league when healthy and it is hard to just let those players go.
Anthony Castonzo, Offensive Tackle
Castonzo has been one of the most consistent tackles in the league since he was drafted. For a team that struggled to protect their quarterback before last year, Castonzo has always been the model of consistency. He is coming off perhaps his best season as a pro as he was nearly flawless once returning from injury in week six.
Here is what Kyle Rapoza had to say about a potential deal for the left tackle: Castonzo will be 32 next year. The Colts lack of depth at tackle makes him extremely valuable to the team. I think a good comp for his next contract is Joe Staley from San Francisco. Staley is older at 34, but has multiple Pro Bowls on his resume. Staley signed a 2 year, $28 million contract that made him the 4th highest paid Left Tackle in the NFL. I think a slight bump from that, around 2 years, $30 million is reasonable for Castonzo. He could also be a strong candidate for one of the tags available to the team.
The only issue with when it comes to a contract for Castonzo is age. He has been consistent his entire career but eventually, his age will catch up to him. The Colts currently don’t have a viable replacement for him on the roster, though, unless they decide to address it early in the 2020 NFL Draft. Without a replacement on the roster, and with it being so hard to find tackle talent in this league, the Colts would be wise to extend Castonzo sooner rather than later.
Eyes on the LT: Anthony Castonzo was very good in week 15 and looks as good as I've seen him since 2014. Healthy, efficient, and getting to his spot. Here is every rep from pass pro against Randy Gregory. He won the war and lost a battle, maybe two. Fun matchup to watch: pic.twitter.com/Q0rpy1dD2Y— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) December 18, 2018
After carrying the “bust” label in his early years in Detroit, Ebron has effectively turned his career around with the Colts. In 2018, he had 14 total touchdowns and earned his first career Pro Bowl appearance. Going into year two with the Colts, it’s hard to expect an overall regression given his talent and rapport with quarterback Andrew Luck.
Here is what Kyle Rapoza had to say about a potential deal for the breakout tight end: At just 26 years old and coming off a great season, Ebron is set up for a big payday next offseason and will surely look to cash in. His agent recent negotiated big deals for Saints WR Michael Thomas and Redskins safety Landon Collins. I think he’ll look to reset the market at the tight end position. My projection for Eric Ebron would be a 4 year contract at $42 million. At $10.5 million per year this surpasses Jimmy Graham and his $10 million per year average as the highest paid tight end, but also in line with the best paid slot wide receivers in the league. Sterling Shepard (10.25m) and Tyler Boyd ($10.75m) recently signed extensions right in that range.
With Ebron, he has all the talent to be a factor on this offense for many years. He also clearly loves the Colts and would love to be a big part of this team going forward. The only drawback would be the big payday for a fairly one dimensional player. He’s a great player but will Ballard break the bank for a pass catching only tight end?
HAT TRICK ALERT— Indy SportsOne (@IndySportsOne) November 11, 2018
Eric Ebron with his THIRD touchdown of the FIRST HALF! pic.twitter.com/7b5hFrdAEV
Jack Doyle, Tight End
Doyle has been a reliable presence in the Colts’ locker room for years now as he enters his seventh NFL season. In limited playing time last year due to injuries, he was able to haul in 26 catches for 245 yards and two touchdowns on the season. A steady receiver and excellent blocker, could Doyle be in his last year with the Colts?
Here is what Kyle Rapoza had to say about a potential deal for the reliable tight end: Doyle will be 30 next season and has been productive but is coming off two major injuries in one year. His last deal was 3 years, $19 million. Last offseason the best tight ends on the open market were Tyler Kroft and CJ Uzomah, who both signed for just over $6 million. I think his market value is somewhere around the $8 million per year that Trey Burton signed for a year ago. I could see Doyle agreeing to a 3 year, $21 million deal, which is slightly below his market value, but he likely values staying and likely finishing his career in his hometown.
The biggest factor that comes into play for this potential future deal with Doyle is the development of Mo Alie-Cox. Doyle is a great blocker and a steady receiver who is getting up there a bit in age. If a younger player like Alie-Cox can show more promise and development in 2019, then it could make the decision to move on from Doyle much easier going into the 2020 offseason.
Jabaal Sheard, Defensive End
The final player to discuss is veteran Jabaal Sheard. Sheard has been a mainstay in Indy the past few seasons. In two seasons with the team, Sheard tallied 102 tackles, 11 sacks, 23 tackles for a loss, and 27 quarterback hits. Could the valuable veteran be in his final year with the team?
Here is what Kyle Rapoza had to say about a potential deal for the steady DE: Sheard will be an interesting take in his value to the team if he does indeed miss time this season with his current knee injury. If they struggle to replace him with younger options, it increases the likelihood they look to bring him back. His current deal is a fair market for the production he’s had in recent years. At an average value of $8.5 million, he’s clearly not up with the high end pass rushers in the league but remains in line with productive players on second contracts like Trent Murphy, Michael Bennett and Mario Addison. A 2 year deal for $16 million is a reasonable expectation for an extension for Sheard.
Similarly to Doyle, Sheard’s future with the team comes down to the younger players potentially replacing him. The Colts have spent two second round picks in the past two drafts on defensive ends (Ben Banogu and Kemoko Turay) and also signed Justin Houston to a multi year deal. If those youngsters even show some promise, Sheard could be on his way out in 2020. Regardless, he is a talented player who will find a home wherever he lands.
Sheard way too quick here. Reads the play perfectly and shoots up field before Johnson can react. Johnson attempts to get a hand on Sheard but he’s too slow. Sheard is an elite run defender due to his quickness and ability to read offensive plays and formations. pic.twitter.com/Cg5VnaahKO— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) July 12, 2019