WESTFIELD, Ind. – The news traveled fast: a young, still-developing cornerstone on one of the NFL’s premier offensive lines had been locked up with an extension.
“They tell me that Braden Smith is pretty good around here,’’ quarterback Carson Wentz said Wednesday after the Indianapolis Colts wrapped up their first training camp practice at Grand Park Sports Campus.
“Just heard the news we locked him up, so pretty fired up for that.’’
So was Smith, who earlier signed a four-year extension that includes $70 million in new money – he’s got a 2021 base salary of $2.4 million – and $42 million in guarantees.
A byproduct of persistent negotiations over the offseason: Smith is the league’s second-highest paid right tackle. The $70 million extension trails only the five-year, $96 million extension the New Orleans Saints gave to Ryan Ramczyk.
Remember general manager Chris Ballard’s response when the topic of looming extensions for Smith and All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard was broached?
“You’re never going to regret playing a great player,’’ he said. “I don’t give a crap what position it is.’’
And this from coach Frank Reich last season.
“The guy is a stud,’’ he said.
Smith admitted it was a relief – and his objective – for the contract to be resolved before camp began.
“It’s just kind of a little relief knowing where you’re going to be at the next couple of years,’’ he said. “I love this organization. Thank Mr. (Jim) Irsay and Chris Ballard for believing in me. I feel like Indianapolis is my home.
“They paid me so I want to pay them back and play my best football, help them win as many games as we can and just keep giving back.’’
Smith generally allowed his agent to handle negotiations, but again, made it clear the extension needed to get done sooner, not later.
“My agent is great. He has done deals like that before so it just takes the pressure off me so I can just focus on training for the season and just go about my business,’’ he said. “I can just focus on football (and) not have to worry about it. I can, in other words, go balls to the wall with no hesitation and playing my best football.
“I didn’t want to become a distraction during training camp.’’
Smith’s development has been steady and required an early career relocation. The 2018 second-round draft pick – 37th overall – was viewed as a guard prospect coming out of Auburn.
Instead, he’s started 46 of a possible 51 games at right tackle, including the playoffs.
“It’s definitely kind of crazy,’’ Smith said. “I was just talking to Q (left guard Quenton Nelson) not too long ago. I was talking to him about how I did three two-minute drills in a row when I was a rookie and how that was when I used to play guard.
“It is kind of crazy looking back just how the change has come back.’’
The team is committed to retaining the key components of its offensive line.
Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly signed a four-year, $50 million extension last September that included $34 million in guarantees. And Ballard faces what could be a lottery-level extension for Nelson next offseason.
It’s also possible the Colts will attempt to sign left tackle Eric Fisher to an extension after signing him to a one-year, $8.38 million contract in May.
Paye: Getting up to speed
Kwity Paye’s first impression of the NFL?
It’s faster than college.
“It was definitely fast,’’ said the first-round draft pick out of Michigan. “For me, I just have to get used to it. Coming from college it was a way different tempo coming out here . . . just off the ball a little faster.
“It was my first day so I struggled a little bit, but all I want to do is just brick by brick improve every day.’’
The Colts used the 21st overall pick in the April draft on Paye and envision him as being the catalyst to their pass rush.
His offseason workout regimen resulted in him lowering his weight from 270 to 265 pounds.
Left tackle update
Offensive coordinator Marcus Brady said “open competition’’ will determine the starting left tackle until Fisher is fully recovered after tearing his Achilles in late January.
That open competition began with Will Holden taking most of the reps with the starting unit. He appeared in two games with the Colts last season, including a start against the Pittsburgh Steelers in week 16.
Sam Tevi worked as Holden’s backup.
Among players who did not practice Wednesday were running back Nyheim Hines (hip) and safety Shawn Davis (hamstring).
Prior to practice, the team placed cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes and T.J. Carrie and defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad on the COVID-19 list.
You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.