Kenny Moore II ‘speechless’ after Colts sign cornerback to 4-year extension

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 09: Kenny Moore II #23 of the Indianapolis Colts runs back an interception in the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 9, 2018 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Bobby Ellis/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – This isn’t the way these things normally are handled.

We’re talking about a team possessing the bulk of the leverage in contract negotiations yet still initiating extension talks with players who will be restricted free agents at the end of the season. Not unrestricted free agents-to-be, but restricted and still in large part at the mercy of management.

But here we are, again.

For the third time this month, the Indianapolis Colts went against the norm and extended a player’s contract at a time when it wasn’t absolutely necessary.

“I was shocked,’’ cornerback Kenny Moore II said Thursday as the Colts’ offseason work concluded with a truncated minicamp session.

Given a second to collect himself, Moore reconsidered.

“I was speechless,’’ he said with a smile.

That was in response to general manager Chris Ballard once again deciding to reward one of his own and another young player on the rise. That came in the form of a four-year extension that makes Moore the NFL’s highest-paid slot corner and ties him to the Colts through 2023. Several outlets, including ESPN and IndyStar, are reporting the new deal is worth $34 million with $18 million in guarantees and another $6 million available through escalators.

Moore was appreciative, but subdued and somewhat reflective.

“I trust the process,’’ he said. “I trust this team. I trust this coaching staff. I trust this organization.

“The higher-ups, they just believe in me and my ability. They like what they see and I appreciate that.’’

Moore embodies everything Ballard, Frank Reich and the entire organization covet.

He was a four-year starter at Valdosta State who failed to earn an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine despite 11 career interceptions, and went undrafted. Signed as a rookie free agent by New England in 2017, he was waived when rosters were trimmed to 53 and claimed by the Colts Sept. 3.

Indy needed help at corner at the time, but Ballard initially wasn’t a fan of adding Moore.

At 5-9, he “didn’t meet the height standard,’’ Ballard said recently. “We’d be at 2 o’clock in the morning in here and you’re digging for a needle in the haystack on claim day.

“I’m just looking at: 5-9, 185 pounds. You see a good player on tape, but I keep saying, ‘He’s 5-9, a dime a dozen.’’’

Assistant GM Ed Dodds and director of player personnel Kevin Rogers kept hammering away at Ballard.

“Finally,’’ Ballard said, “I just relented. I was like, ‘Just take him.’ Ended up being a really good player.’’

Ended up being a player who earned a hefty contract before his time.

In two seasons, Moore has started 22 of 33 games including the postseason, and been one of the secondary’s more productive and versatile players. He has five interceptions, 19 passes defensed and 4.5 sacks.

Coordinator Matt Eberflus began expanding Moore’s role as last season unfolded, which included using him as an edge blitzer. His 3 sacks in the playoffs set a team record for a postseason. In the two playoff games, Moore contributed the 3 sacks, 19 tackles and an interception.

“Kenny means everything,’’ Reich said. “I mean, he is a consummate pro really. It’s not just the high-level play, but the consistency of play. That’s really what I think he embodies.

“We saw his playmaking ability last year on the ball, sack, blitzer.’’

Moore, who turns 24 in August, is the third player to receive an extension in the last two weeks, joining punter Rigoberto Sanchez and long-snapper Luke Rhodes.

It’s interesting to note each entered the NFL as an undrafted prospect, and each would have been restricted at the end of this season.

“Chris has made it clear those guys really embody what being a Colt is all about,’’ Reich said. “I just think that sends the right message that those are the kind of guys we want around for the long term.’’

Sanchez was one of Ballard’s post-draft rookie signings in May 2017, and was a surprise survivor when rosters were cut to 53. The team previously had signed veteran Jeff Locke to replace Pat McAfee, who had retired in the offseason.

“It’s been a crazy journey,’’ Sanchez said. “It just shows a lot of character from the Colts organization. They take care of their guys when you take care of them on the field and off the field.’’

The extension, Sanchez admitted, as a surprise.

“I knew I had another season ahead of me to prove myself,’’ he said. “This is kind of like another, ‘Hey, Rigo, you know you’re doing a good job, keep working.’ That’s how I’m taking it.’’

The extensions for Moore, Sanchez and Rhodes are the latest decisions by the Colts to reward and retain “their own.’’ Previously:

  • Placekicker Adam Vinatieri: 1-year, $3.825 million
  • Safety Clayton Geathers: 1 year, $2.75 million
  • Cornerback Pierre Desir: 3 years, $25 million
  • Guard Mark Glowinski: 3 years, $18 million
  • Defensive lineman Margus Hunt: 2 years, $9 million

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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