The Indianapolis Colts have already traded one of the team’s key veterans this offseason. Bleacher Report’s Maurice Moton argued that another veteran could be on his way out through a trade.
Moton proposed the Colts deal starting center Ryan Kelly. Moton identified the New York Jets as the best fit for the veteran offensive linemen, who signed a four-year, $50 million extension with Indianapolis in September 2020.
“Every year between 2019 and 2021, Kelly earned Pro Bowl honors,” Moton wrote. “In 2020, he made the second-team All-Pro list. Despite those accolades, the Colts center may be on the trade block with a new offensive coaching staff in place.
“Perhaps head coach Shane Steichen and his staff prefer a less costly player at center. Kelly signed a four-year, $49.7 million extension in 2020. If Indianapolis is a seller with its starting center on the hook, the New York Jets should bite with an aggressive offer.”
Kelly was one of Indianapolis’ best players from 2019-21. He also earned a second-team All-Pro nomination in 2020.
But Kelly, along with the rest of the offensive line, struggled in 2022.
Colts Selling Expensive Veterans This Offseason?
Moton’s proposal for the Colts to deal Kelly comes a little less than two weeks after ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler stated that the center may already be on the trading block.
“Teams that went all-in to contend for a championship now must shed salary,” Fowler wrote. “Some of those teams will stay very active on the phones, feeling out potential suitors.
“The Colts are believed to be one. Sources with several NFL teams say three-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly is available for a potential trade or release.”
That gels with the moves general manager Chris Ballard has already executed this offseason. While Ballard did spend big money on kicker Matt Gay, he also shed salary by trading cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Dallas Cowboys.
Additionally, as expected, the Colts released veteran quarterback Matt Ryan to drop more than $17 million against the cap.
Kelly is set to count as a $12.375 million cap hit in 2023 and then a $14.625 million cap hit next season.
With Kelly an expensive veteran, the Colts may be better off spending his salary on younger players who will still be in their prime once Indianapolis rebuilds its roster. Kelly will turn 30 in May.
Ryan Kelly’s Struggles During the 2022 Season
If Kelly was still a potential All-Pro player, the Colts may be more willing to pay him his big salary over the next two seasons.
But Kelly’s play declined in 2022. He struggled so much last season, The Indianapolis Star’s Nate Atkins argued the Colts should consider just flat out cutting Kelly.
“The Colts can save nearly $8 million for next year and $12 million for 2024 by cutting Ryan Kelly, and they should consider it,” Atkins wrote in February. “They could transfer that money to right guard and then draft an athletic center they can use as a puller the way the Eagles have.”
According to the Pro Football Focus player grades, Kelly was the 16th-best center out of 31 eligible players last season. He was actually worse in 2021, finishing 21st out of 26 centers based on the PFF grades.
From 2018-20, he was a Top 10 NFL center according to the same grading system.
Kelly has started 97 games for the Colts. The team drafted him 18th overall in the 2016 NFL draft.
If the Colts may release Kelly to save the cap space, they might as well shop him on the trade market.