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INDIANAPOLIS – It’s a major reason why the Colts chose not to be aggressive during the early stages of free agency this offseason.

Could the Colts have made it all work?


But the Colts know that a much more restricted cap situation is waiting for them and they want to lessen that as best they can.

So, some cap space in 2021 has been saved, and that’s good news for a few 2018 draft picks.

Contract extensions are coming, possibly before the start of the 2021 season, for Darius Leonard and Braden Smith. And fellow 2018 draft pick Nyheim Hines could be receiving one, too, although he plays that dreaded running back position, which hinders when/if those players get a 2nd deal.

Jim Irsay laid out in the spring that the Colts were going to get extensions done for Leonard and Smith, with Hines a possibility, too.

“It just depends on what the numbers are,” Irsay says. “(But) Darius and Braden, we’re looking forward to coming to extensions with those guys.

“I’m very optimistic that we’re going to be able to get them done. I’m planning on the fact that we’ll be getting them done. I’ll be surprised if we didn’t.”

With multiple All-Pro honors on his young NFL resume, Leonard has shattered the return on his 4-year, $7.25 million rookie deal.

The Colts know that as Leonard reaches a potential contract year.

“They take value in me and hopefully that’ll show,” Leonard says about his pending contract. “I think that I put in enough work the past three years. I give it my all, day in and day out, never miss a day. Once I step on that field, I give everything I’ve got. They know that. And hopefully we get everything settled and we’ll be good to go.”

Based off what Smith is going to earn on his second deal, he has also given the Colts much more than they could have realistically expected off of his rookie contract (4 years, $7.19 million).

Chosen one spot after Leonard in 2018, Smith was thought to be a guard at the NFL level.

He was needed at right tackle barely a month into his rookie season, and has been an extremely sound presence there since.

In true Smith fashion, he will sign on the dotted line whenever his agent informs him to do so.

“That’s what (my agent) gets paid to do. And I get paid to play football,” Smith said when asked about his second NFL contract.

With Hines, if he was playing any other position, there would be little debate in handing him a multi-year extension.

He is a piece unlike any the Colts have on offense, a unit that wants versatility.

At a position filled with attrition, Hines has not only never missed a game in the NFL, but he’s never missed a practice.

That’s astonishing.

And it’s why Irsay mentions him, whereas 1,000-yard rusher Marlon Mack went through last offseason not getting a second contract.

“It’s on my mind obviously,” Hines says of that second contract. “But I haven’t really thought much about it. I’m letting my agent handle it. My job is to be the best player I can be and the best leader. Last year, I think I took two big steps last year. As a runner, I took a big step. And as a leader on this team, I took a big step. That’s what really I’m focused on.”

NFL news this time of year is scarce, but the Colts are expected to make some in furthering this new foundation being built.