We have officially reached the part of the offseason where contract holdouts can begin.
The Indianapolis Colts began the third phase of offseason workouts this week as they started OTAs. OTAs are voluntary workouts where players get to work on-field with coaches and participate in 7-on-7, 9-on-7, and 11-on-11 drills. This is the first chance for offenses and defenses to go up against one another.
The Colts have had near 100% participation in OTAs the first couple of days. However, there is one player in particular that has not been on the field, and it seems like it has been intentional.
On Wednesday, Joel Erickson of the Indy Star reported that Colts cornerback Kenny Moore II is not participating in OTAs because he is unhappy with his contract situation. Moore II, a Pro Bowler in 2021, feels that he is underpaid given his performance and importance to the Colts defense since he signed an extension back in 2019. Moore II has two years left on his current deal and is due $6.75 million in 2022 and $8.25 million in 2023.
The news caused a stir among Colts fans on social media. Some advocated that Moore II deserves a pay raise. Others argued that he should honor the contract he signed three years ago.
My take? Pay the man. Plain and simple.
First off, let’s take a look at his current deal. Moore II signed a four-year, $33.3 million deal with $9 million guaranteed after the 2018 season. The contract comes out to an average of around $8.33 million per season.
When looking at the per year average, Moore II ranks as the 27th highest paid cornerback in the league. Two corners that are above Moore II in per year average are Derek Stingley Jr. of the Houston Texans and Sauce Gardner of the New York Jets, rookies that have yet to play a snap in the NFL. For a Pro Bowl-caliber player to be making less than players who have not yet played a down does not seem right.
The contract Moore II signed was also signed three years ago. Much has changed in the NFL over the past three seasons, including the value teams place on wide receivers and cornerbacks as the league has continued to shift towards the passing game. With the highest-paid cornerbacks making over $20 million per season, it’s no surprise Moore II wants to be compensated fairly.
Moving away from the contract, Moore II’s play speaks for itself. Since 2019, he has racked up 200 tackles (first among CBs), 10 interceptions (T-fourth), 5.5 sacks (second), and 14 tackles for loss (third). Many people around the NFL have said that Moore II is the best slot cornerback in the league, and it is easy to see why.
The analytics giant Pro Football Focus has also noticed Moore II’s level of play. Since signing his last contract, he has received overall grades of 75.5 in 2019 (15th among CBs), 73.8 in 2020 (16th), and 66.6 in 2021 (37th). He has consistently proven to be one of the better cornerbacks as far as analytics goes.
He is also a player that can be counted on week in and week out. For a position as injury prone as cornerback, Moore II has missed just eight games over the past three seasons, with only three of those games coming since 2020. When healthy, Moore II hardly misses a snap as he has played no less than 92% of the Colts’ defensive snaps the last three seasons, including 97% in 2021.
As we look at everything Moore II can do on the field, we haven’t even touched on his importance off the field. The veteran cornerback has become a leader within the Colts’ locker room and someone that a young secondary looks up to. From the way he prepares to the way he carries himself, he sets an example every day for his teammates on how to work hard and better their craft.
In the community, Moore II has shown to be a rockstar for the city of Indianapolis. He was the Colts’ nominee for the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2021 for his service to the community. It is hard to find a better person on the Colts than Moore II.
“Obviously, you guys know how we feel about Kenny,” head coach Frank Reich said. “Every player has to make their own decision. We love Kenny. We’re going to continue to work hard and get the guys ready who are here. I’m glad he’s here. I know he didn’t get the work today, but thankful he’s here and seeing and hearing everything that’s going on.
“I hope whatever needs to get worked out whether that’s something or nothing – I’m just all positive energy towards Kenny because we love him and need him.”
After laying out all of these arguments, it is hard to build a case that Moore II does not deserve a better contract. However, there are plenty of people who will still argue against it.
‘He’s only a slot cornerback who does not cover the opposing team’s best wide receiver.’ Some of the best receivers in the NFL play most of their snaps from the slot. Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams, Tyreek Hill of the Miami Dolphins, and Chris Godwin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers all played primarily from the slot in 2021.
‘Sitting out OTAs shows he is not a team player and he’s a distraction.’ OTAs, as mentioned before, are completely voluntary. He would not even have to be at the facility if he so chose. Instead, Moore II is still on the sidelines during practice, engaging with coaches and players. There have been no reports he is skipping meetings, either.
‘He agreed to the contract so he should have to play it out.’ Does this same logic apply to teams? If he had played poorly, would you say the Colts should not cut him because they offered him the four-year deal? Just because he signed the contract and agreed to it three years ago does not mean he is not underpaid now.
‘If he doesn’t want to play under this deal, Isaiah Rodgers can take his spot and the Colts will be fine.’ Look, I’m a big believer in Rodgers. The kid is a dog and has great talent. But there is no guarantee that Rodgers will even beat out fellow cornerback Brandon Facyson for a starting spot on this defense, let alone replace a Pro Bowl talent like Moore II.
All of this is to say the decision should be easy for Chris Ballard and the Colts. Moore II deserves a new contract that pays him fairly for what he brings, both on and off the field. A contract in the range of around $12 million per year is reasonable for a player of his caliber, and the Colts have the cap flexibility to accommodate it.
For a team that puts a ton of stock into re-signing and taking care of their own, this should be a no-brainer. Get it done.
Have thoughts on Kenny Moore II wanting a new contract? Drop a line in the comments below and let us know what you think!
Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewMooreNFL.