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Indianapolis Colts v Pittsburgh Steelers

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The Colts under Chris Ballard are pretty good at paying their guys second contracts.  That track record is going to get tested with the contracts of Jonathan Taylor and Michael Pittman Jr.

In Taylor, you’ve got a workhorse running back who has led the league in rushing and has been the focal point of the Colts offense (usually the only bright spot as well).  He’s easily outplayed his rookie contract and is only 24 years old but he plays a non-premium position that is seeing teams across the league chew up running backs and spit them out before second contracts come up. Running backs who are getting the big money contracts are guys like Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara and Derrick Henry.  Guys who are third down backs and threats in the passing game.

In Pittman, you’ve got a guy at a highly-coveted position but what I think is safe to say hasn’t exactly blown the lid off of things since he’s been with the team.  His 99 catches last season rank tenth in the NFL but he only 925 receiving yards, which ranked 25th and none of those 99 catches went for 40 or more yards (his longest reception was 28 yards).  Pittman’s production has likely been hindered by the Colts’ quarterback situation the last couple of seasons.  A lot of wide receivers would be affected by the constant change under center.

How the Colts handle both of these contracts is going to be fascinating.  Do you back up the truck for Taylor despite his position’s value being decreased across the league?  He’s certainly produced.  Take Jonathan Taylor and his stats off this team and how much worse does the Colts offense look?  For Pittman, are you paying him $20-plus million a season like other #1 wide receivers across the league or do you need to see more?  The conundrum for the Colts is one guy has outplayed his contract and exceeded expectations yet he plays a non-premium position while the other plays a position that is seeing the asking price go up and up but the production hasn’t been as high as expected.

The Colts haven’t used the franchise tag under Chris Ballard’s watch.  The last time they did was Pat McAfee back in 2013.  But I can see a scenario where they may have no choice in pulling the trigger on using it.  You’ve got two complicated contracts coming up at the same time, they don’t want to lose either guy for nothing but you’ve also got a rookie quarterback that needs to be surrounded by as much talent as possible in order for him to show what he can do. If these contract discussions prove to be difficult and we’re getting closer to the regular season I could see the Colts having to table talks until after the season or at least consider the franchise tag option.

I feel pretty confident saying one of these contracts will get done before the regular season starts but I have no idea which one that would be.  And if they don’t then does either guy start getting more vocal in interviews or on social media?  Taylor has already voicing his opinion on the subject more than he ever has now that he’s seeing peers like Austin Ekeler, Saquon Barkley, Dalvin Cook and others fight for their money.

The whole situation is fascinating to me and they are two big name players and contract situations to monitor not just heading into training camp but possibly throughout the entire 2023 season.

-Marc Dykton

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