Colts’ Ryan Kelly Delivers Message on Trade Rumors

Ryan Kelly

Getty Indianapolis Colts center Ryan Kelly sent a message to fans about his trade rumors this offseason.

Rumors have swirled the past couple months that the Indianapolis Colts could trade center Ryan Kelly. Even Kelly has seen them.

The Colts veteran center revealed that it’s “impossible not to see rumors” when speaking to the media on April 20. But he also made it clear that Indianapolis is the place where he wants to be.

“I still love this place,” Kelly said were his thoughts after talking with new head coach Shane Steichen for the first time. “It still means the world to me.”

The 2023 season will be Kelly’s eighth with the Colts.

Colts Keeping Kelly for 2023 Season

The Colts drafted Kelly in the first round of the 2016 NFL draft. As the longest-tenured member of the team, Kelly came to Indianapolis even before general manager Chris Ballard.

Kelly had a strong start to his career. He earned three consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl from 2019-21. Pro Football Focus ranked Kelly a top 10 center during each season from 2018-20. In 2020, he also made second-team All-Pro.

But the PFF player grades rated Kelly an average center last season. He also received no postseason accolades, failing to make the Pro Bowl for the first time since 2018.

Kelly probably could have hid his struggles if the Indianapolis offensive line played better as a unit. But the Colts struggled in pass protection and generated very little room in the ground attack.

That led to speculation that the Colts could move on from Kelly even if it meant releasing the 3-time Pro Bowler.

“It’s impossible not to see rumors,” Kelly told the media. “I did a really good job of it, but people around me would call me and say, ‘What’s up, dude? Heard you’re going here.”

Colts GM Chris Ballard Sent Indirect Message to Kelly

The Colts center is signed through the 2024 season. But his cap hit increases another $2.25 million while his dead cap shrinks by the same amount next year.

Kelly is now expected to remain in Indianapolis this season, but next year, the Colts could release him and save $12.375 million against the salary cap for 2024. Doing so would also only result in a $2.25 dead cap hit.

It stands then to reason that Kelly will have to regain his 2020 form to stay with the Colts beyond this fall. Ballard appeared to send that message in so many words this offseason.

“Our best players have to play better,” Ballard told the media on March 31. “And we have to play better as a team.”

Whether the Colts keep Kelly for the duration of his contract could depend on how other players perform on the team.

Next offseason, Indianapolis will potentially have six starters who become eligible for NFL free agency, including running back Jonathan Taylor and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. If those two young stars bounce back from underwhelming 2022 campaigns, the Colts will likely be very motivated to re-sign both.

Defensive tackle Grover Stewart, cornerback Kenny Moore and safety Julian Blackmon are also going to be free agents in 2024. It’s possible that even if Kelly plays well, the Colts will prefer to bring back defensive starters as opposed to Kelly, who will turn 31 next offseason.

Still, Kelly sounds pleased to be back for 2023. The Colts should be pleased too, as the veteran center could play a key role in helping develop the team’s next franchise quarterback.

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