Three-time first-team All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson has been waiting patiently all offseason for a contract extension. If all goes according to plan, his waiting will be finished by the end of the month.
NFL reporter Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reported on August 10 that the team’s “contract strategy is clear” — the Indianapolis Colts want to “figure out a way to pay” Nelson in August. Fowler also reported the team is willing to put all other contract concerns aside until Nelson is locked up on a long-term deal.
“From what I’m told, the Colts’ contract strategy is clear: Figure out a way to pay guard Quenton Nelson, hopefully this month,” Fowler wrote. “Other contract matters can wait.
“That means Kenny Moore II, a standout corner who has two years left on a four-year, $33 million deal, might not cash in until 2023. The same goes for linebacker Bobby Okereke, an underrated player.”
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Nelson ‘Will Break the Bank’
Fowler has been following Nelson’s contract situation for months. He originally reported on May 18 that “several veteran agents” told him that Nelson will reset the market for offensive guards with a record-setting contract extension.
“Nelson, 26, is widely considered the NFL’s best guard by a wide margin and could want closer to $20 million annually,” Fowler wrote. “I have heard the same sentiment from several veteran agents: Nelson will break the bank.”
Jacksonville Jaguars guard Brandon Scherff makes an average of $16.5 million per season as the highest-paid guard in the league (based on average annual value).
To get Nelson signed to an extension, the Colts will have to top that. On June 14, NFL writer Maurice Moton projected Nelson to be worth a five-year, $95 million contract with $50 million guaranteed.
It’ll be interesting to see how Colts general manager Chris Ballard constructs Nelson’s contract extension. Spotrac projects that Indianapolis will have roughly $16 million in salary cap space heading into free agency next year, assuming the salary cap increases by $10 million. That ranks the Colts 10th in 2023 salary cap space as of August 10.
The cap could increase by a lot more than $10 million, and the Colts could make cuts to their roster to clear space too. By no means is Indianapolis in danger of not being able to afford Nelson.
However, in addition to Nelson, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, left tackle Matt Pryor, wide receiver Parris Campbell and cornerback Brandon Facyson are set to be free agents next March. Furthermore, as Fowler mentioned, Moore and Okereke could need new deals too.
If Ballard hands Nelson a blank check, it will be remarkable harder to re-sign the team’s top edge rusher, extend Moore and Okereke and re-sign some other starters.
Nelson Deserves Every Penny He Receives
Fowler confirmed his own claim that Nelson is the best guard in football with his the best-of lists he released in July. Using 50 votes compiled from players, coaches, executives and scouts in the league, Fowler constructed a Top 10 list of offensive guards heading into the 2022 season with Nelson at No. 1.
It was the third straight year Nelson was at the top of Fowler’s list of Top 10 guards.
“He’s still the guy you would start a team with [at guard],” a well-known NFL coach told Fowler. “You just have to watch him to know he’s a special player who can dominate a game at times.”
In four NFL seasons, Nelson has made All-Pro all four years, including first-team All-Pro on three occasions. Simply put, he’s one of the best offensive linemen in the NFL right now.
It’s hard to put a price on that. But the Colts reportedly plan to sometime in August.