Indianapolis Colts ascending star starting right tackle Braden Smith isn’t thinking about any ongoing contract extension discussions—leaving them to his agent, while he solely focuses on the football field this offseason (via the IndyStar’s Joel Erickson):
Braden Smith's thoughts on his looming extension are short and matter of fact: "I just let my agent handle that. That's what he gets paid to do. I get paid to play football."— Joel A. Erickson (@JoelAErickson) May 19, 2021
Similar to another star 2018 second round pick, Darius Leonard, Smith is set to become a prized free agent following the 2021 season. While less of a household name than Leonard, Smith is quickly becoming one of the young stalwarts at his own position respectively:
Braden Smith played 1,015 snaps last season and allowed zero sacks.#Colts have one of the most underrated tackles in the NFL. pic.twitter.com/GemnahkvDi— Locked On Colts Podcast (@LockedOnColts) May 17, 2021
Of course, the Colts have been consistently saving cash and maintaining salary cap flexibility for both standouts (in part) to assuredly ink a lucrative long-term contract extension to keep them in ‘Horseshoe Blue’ for the foreseeable future.
The team has made it a priority to retain its top young homegrown talent after all.
While Smith hasn’t been a Pro Bowler yet, he arguably should’ve been this past season.
Per PFF (subscription), Smith was their 16th best graded offensive tackle with a +80.1 overall grade (6th best among all right tackles) during 14 starts in 2020.
The former Auburn standout has made 43 starts for the Colts over the past three seasons at starting right tackle, solidifying the position and more—as a top young bookend.
Currently, the Colts have a projected $79.7M of cap space for the 2021 offseason and $20.47M of available cap space right now (*before the Eric Fisher signing is official).
Philadelphia Eagles’ 3x Pro Bowler Lane Johnson is the highest paid right tackle in football, having signed a 4-year, $72M contract extension (with $54.6M guaranteed) in November of 2019 ($18M average annual value [‘AAV’]).
While it’s no guarantee that Smith eclipses that, it seems like a safe bet that he’ll be in that $14M-$18M AAV range, as the NFL’s current second highest paid right tackle, the Cleveland Browns’ Jack Conklin inked a 3-year, $42 million deal in March of 2020 ($14M AAV).
Keep in mind, that NFL contracts for young stars continue to increase, as does the NFL salary cap—as an ‘inflation’ game of sorts.
Regardless, the Colts should have no problem locking up Smith for the long-term, and it seems prudent that the franchise would want to get a deal done with at least one of Leonard or Smith this offseason—saving the franchise tag as an insurance policy ‘just in case’ for the other young foundational piece next year (as the team only gets one to use).
Smith isn’t worried about that though, thinking about purely playing football—and maybe some off-the-field gardening and fishing on the side instead.