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Projecting Ryan Kelly’s Next Contract

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Carolina Panthers v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Ryan Kelly is entering his final year of his rookie contract. The Colts picked up his 5th year option last season and he will play under it this season. Kelly will be making 10.35M this season, which is around the same amount he made during his first four years under the rookie contract.

Kelly has proven to be one of the best centers in the NFL and is entering his athletic prime at 27 years old. Ryan Kelly has also proven to be the mold that keeps this offensive line playing at a high level. Although Quenton Nelson is clearly the best offensive lineman on the team, it’s Kelly who’s the glue that keeps things together; the unit does not play well without him. He allowed only 1 sack, 5 hits and 15 hurries in 2019, all remarkably low figures. He actually allowed fewer hurries than Nelson.

It’s clear that Kelly is valuable and he wants to be a Colt for life. Contract extension talks have already begun and a deal might happen before the season starts. The big question is: how much is he worth?


Comparable Players

Rodney Hudson — 3 Years, $33.75M with $24.4M guaranteed | Signed in 2019

Mitch Morse — 4 Years, $44.45M with $26.5M guaranteed | Signed in 2019

Nick Martin — 3 Years, $33M with $18.35M guaranteed | Signed in 2019

The average of those contracts, adjusted for salary cap inflation, is:

3 Years, 35.38M with 22.05M guaranteed

Hudson is known as one of, if not the premier center in the NFL and Morse is up there too. Martin is a borderline top 10 center, but as shown with the Tunsil contract extension, the Texans grossly overpay good-but-not-great talent. Kelly is a better player than Martin and in the same league as Hudson and Morse.


What Will Kelly Get?

The Colts tend to reward good players with good contracts. They gave Anthony Castonzo a very nice contract and they gave DeForest Buckner a massive deal. It’s clear that Chris Ballard is wiling to pay big for good players. That’s why I believe Ryan Kelly will get 5% above the projected average listed above. That means I expect his contract to look like this:

3 Years, $37,150,000 (12.38M per year) with $23,153,000 Guaranteed

Here is the link to my Anthony Castonzo contract projection that was accurate within a few percentage points.