2 Colts Stars Included on List of Top 2023 NFL Free Agents

Frank Reich

Getty Head coach Frank Reich and the Indianapolis Colts have two key players who are not under contract for the 2023 season.

The Indianapolis Colts are once again projected, according to Spotrac, to be among the leaders in salary cap space going into the 2023 season. But a good portion of that space could be taken by two players already on the roster.

Those two players for the Colts are pending free agent offensive guard Quenton Nelson and edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. Both players were included on a list ranking the Top 25 NFL free agents for 2023 from NFL editor Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.

Nelson came in at No. 3 on the list. Only Lamar Jackson and Tom Brady were ahead of him, as Nelson was ranked the best non-quarterback set to become a free agent next March. Ngakoue was placed at No. 16 and second among edge rushers.

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Record-Setting Deal Coming for Nelson

All the contract projections from media experts this summer predicted Nelson to become the highest-paid guard in the NFL.

Staff writer Jeremy Fowler of ESPN put it simply when he reported in May that several veteran agents told him “Nelson will break the bank.” Fowler guessed Nelson could make close to an average of $20 million per year.

NFL writer Maurice Moton of Bleacher Report made a similar projection in June, writing that Nelson would receive a five-year, $95 million contract with $50 million guaranteed.

Jacksonville Jaguars’ Brandon Scherff is currently the highest-paid guard in the league with an average annual salary of $16.5 million. Whether it’s with the Colts or in free agency, Nelson will very likely be paid more.

But while Nelson entered training camp without a contract beyond 2022, it’s still very likely that he isn’t going anywhere.

“It will be a shock if Nelson doesn’t eventually sign the biggest contract for a guard in NFL history with the Colts,” Rosenthal wrote. “Still, there hasn’t been much chatter about a deal being close.”

Nelson has made the Pro Bowl in all four of his NFL seasons and first-team All Pro three times.

Ngakoue Enters Contract Year on Fifth Team

The 2022 season will likely be a major one for Ngakoue. All contract years are for every player, but Ngakoue enters this fall already on his fifth team before turning 28.

He’s been very productive in his career, recording at least 8.0 sacks in each of his first six NFL seasons. That makes it curious as to why he can’t find a permanent home.

“It’s not a great sign that Ngakoue is on his fifth team, but he absolutely provides speed off the edge if he’s used correctly” wrote Rosenthal.

A lot of things are going to change between now and when free agency begins, but as of August 6, Spotrac projects the Colts to have $16.3 million in salary cap space when the 2023 offseason begins. That amount of space is assuming the NFL salary cap increases by $10 million — in all likelihood, it will increase by even more than $10 million, but it’s also possible it doesn’t rise that much.

Assuming the Colts re-sign Nelson, it will be interesting to see if general manager Chris Ballard makes room to keep Ngakoue too. It might all depend on how well Ngakoue does for Indianapolis this season.

Ngakoue has posted 55.5 sacks, 173 combined tackles, 119 quarterback hits, 20 forced fumbles and 13 pass defenses in six NFL seasons. He had 10.0 sacks, 23 quarterback hits and 28 combined tackles for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021.

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