Colts To Tag Michael Pittman Jr.; Sides Discussing Extension

2:03pm: Although the Colts have Pittman on their extension radar, they will use the placeholder option. Indianapolis will tag Pittman, NFL.com’s Tom Pelissero tweets. It does not appear the sides are too close on a long-term deal, per NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo, but a tag gives them some time. The Colts have until July 15 to complete an extension with their top receiver.

1:45pm: Chris Ballard‘s comments at the Combine did not make it sound likely Michael Pittman Jr.¬†would reach free agency. Indeed, it appears the Colts are preparing to use their franchise tag for the first time since 2013.

The Colts are planning to tag Pittman if they cannot reach an extension, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler. The sides are still talking, per The Athletic’s James Boyd. The Colts last used their tag to keep Pat McAfee off the market 11 years ago, but with the Ballard regime doing well to re-sign its own homegrown talent, it is not surprising this tag drought may soon end.

If the Colts can reach an agreement by 3pm CT, they will avoid a $21.8MM cap hold going on their books. This deadline has spurred action in the recent past, but no extension for a tag candidate has surfaced today. Pittman would be the eighth player franchise-tagged during this year’s two-week window.

Ballard has done well to keep his cornerstone players on extensions. Since taking over, the eighth-year GM has extended Ryan Kelly, Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith, Shaquille Leonard, Kenny Moore, Grover Stewart and Jonathan Taylor. The former rushing champion’s messy extension process overshadowed Pittman’s contract year, which proved vital to a Colts team frequently playing without its top back. Pittman produced career-high numbers in receptions (109) and yards (1,152) last season, helping a Colts team down Anthony Richardson for most of the season.

It is certainly possible Richardson’s injury helped Pittman compile solid stats last year, with Gardner Minshew a readier passer compared to the raw but promising rookie. Minshew indeed looked Pittman’s way often, giving the former second-round pick his second 1,000-yard season. The Colts chose Pittman before Taylor four years ago, selecting him 34th — one spot after Tee Higgins. Showing the value wideouts bring, neither player will be headed to free agency. The Bengals were the first team to use a tag this year, cuffing Higgins in February.

Without a veteran quarterback on the roster, the Colts can better afford expenditures like a Taylor extension and Pittman tag. Ballard’s team generally avoids big-ticket free agency moves, however, and came into Tuesday with more than $70MM in cap space. That number would shrink if Pittman is tagged, but the sides still have more than an hour to reach an extension.

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