Skip to main content

Colts general manager intends to keep WR Michael Pittman with extension or franchise tag

INDIANAPOLIS – One way or another, Michael Pittman will remain a member of the Indianapolis Colts in 2024.

Speaking Wednesday from the NFL Scouting Combine, Colts general manager Chris Ballard made it clear that the club has no plans to let the wideout hit the open market. Ballard noted that the franchise tag is a fallback option but remains a "tool" if necessary.

"We'll work hard to get a deal done," he said. "It's a tool we have. I'm not going to say we're not going to use it, but I'm not going to say we are. Hopefully, we can come to an agreement and find some compromise on a deal."

The Colts have until March 5 to get a long-term deal done with their top wideout before the franchise tag window closes. The franchise tag for wideouts sits at $21.816 million for 2024. If Indy uses the tag on Pittman, it would have until mid-July to agree on a multi-year deal.

Keeping Pittman in Indy is critical for the Colts' growth in 2024. The No. 1 receiver set career highs with 109 catches and 1,152 yards in 2023. His ability to win off the line, make himself available and catch everything in sight makes him a QB's best friend. Pittman fits Shane Steichen's offense perfectly. Locking him down long-term would ensure young quarterback Anthony Richardson has a trusty vet to grow alongside.

If a long-term deal doesn't materialize in the next six days, the fallback franchise tag option gives sides more time to continue negotiating.

In the meantime, Ballard knows he must continue to bolster the receiver corps after injuries left them short in 2023.

"I've got to a better job of helping [wide receivers coach] Reggie [Wayne] and the offensive staff," Ballard said. "And nothing against the players we had in there playing, we just, it was a rotational year. That's hard, that makes it really hard on the coaches. I don't blame them, I blame myself for that one."

Pittman, rookie Josh Downs and field-stretcher Alec Pierce are a solid trio, but the Colts lacked depth, particularly after Ashton Dulin's August ACL tear. Indy has money to add a veteran option in free agency or can look to the draft to supplement the corps.

Ballard spoke glowingly of the 2024 receiver draft class.

"Lot of depth. At every level as a matter of fact," he said. "It's strong. It's a really strong class. I don't know if you've seen them as strong as this, but I compare it almost like when Pitt came out. That year was really good with (Justin) Jefferson and (Brandon) Aiyuk, and Pitt and then the upper part of the draft. I think CeeDee Lamb was in that draft. It's comparable."

Related Content