As the drama surrounding Jonathan Taylor continues with no end in sight, another Colts player who will soon be up for an extension of his own shared his thoughts on potentially being signed before the season begins.
Wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr, when asked about being offered a contract extension by the Colts, seemed fairly unbothered by the thought of playing this year without one.
“If it happens, it happens. But if it doesn’t, yeah, I’ll play it out without an extension.”
Those comments illustrate the different positions Taylor and Pittman find themselves in. Pittman knows that at some point, he will get paid, and paid well. That’s the benefit of being a wide receiver in today’s NFL. Taylor, of course, is currently fighting for the ability to get a long-term, highly paid deal that running backs no longer receive.
The Colts have more than enough cap space to sign both players. It’s hard to see them not resigning Pittman, even if he is still facing questions about his status as a true #1 receiver. Even if he isn’t receiver 1A, he has proven to be a talented player, and it’s not like the Colts are exceptionally deep at the position to begin with.
For Taylor, the situation is obviously much murkier. The Colts aren’t going to break the market for him, even if he is a potential game changing back. Would they like to have him back? Absolutely. There is no denying how important Taylor has been for the Colts the last several years, and with him still having a year left on his contract, they have the ability to withhold his salary should he choose to sit out games. They also have given no indication that they plan to grant his request for a trade.
The question is, will he still be as valuable as he has been this coming season, or in the seasons to come? Taylor missed 6 games last season with an ankle injury, and running backs have notoriously short shelf lives. There’s a reason teams are so hesitant to give them long-term deals.
Let’s do a quick comparison of both players since they were taken by the Colts in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Michael Pittman Jr.
- 2020: 40 receptions for 503 yards, 1 touchdown
- 2021: 88 receptions for 1,082 yards, 6 touchdowns
- 2022: 99 receptions, 925 yards, 4 touchdowns
Career: 227 receptions, 2,510 yards, 11 touchdowns
- 2020: 232 attempts for 1,169 yards (5.0 avg), 11 touchdowns
- 2021: 332 attempts for 1,811 yards (5.5 avg), 18 touchdowns
- 2022: 192 attempts for 861 yards (4.5 avg), 4 touchdowns
Career: 756 attempts for 3,841 yards (5.1 avg) 33 touchdowns
Looking purely at the stats, it’s easy to say that Taylor is more valuable. From the latter half of his rookie year through the 2021 season, there might not have been a more dangerous and explosive player. His 2021 season, in which he led the league in rushing and earned All-Pro honors, ranks as the best season by a running back in Colts history, and one of the better seasons in the history of the league.
It was also a season that saw the Colts go 9-8 and miss the playoffs.
Sure, a lot of that ended up being blamed on Carson Went and the way he played over the final two games of the season, but it is still worth noting that the Colts were only 1 game over .500 that year. As great of an individual season as that was for Taylor, it appears that a great individual season by a running back doesn’t necessarily lead to a large amount of team success.
There is no denying that the NFL has become a pass-first league; just look at the running backs on recent Super Bowl winners. In the last decade, the highest cap hit by a running back was Marshawn Lynch, with a hit worth $8.5 million in 2013. The next highest cap hit? Ronald Jones in 2020; he only had a cap hit of $1.9 million.
In fact, the last time the leading rusher in the league won a Super Bowl was Terrell Davis, with the Broncos in 1998. The entire decade of the 2010’s only saw 3 running backs win a Super Bowl and go over 1,000 yards in the same year, compared to 6 in the 2000’s.
Basically, it seems you don’t need an All-Pro running back to win in the NFL. Not anymore. Is Taylor a better player than Pittman? In a vacuum, yes. Unfortunately for Taylor, Pittman plays a position that has more importance in today’s NFL. Pittman has also proven himself to be, at the very least, a good wide receiver. Will he ever become an All-Pro? Who knows. For the Colts however, having a good wide receiver, especially when the rest of their wide receiver room is unproven, might be more important than having an All-Pro at running back.
It seems unlikely, especially after Pittman’s comments, that he will sign an extension before the season begins. Whatever the case, whenever he does finally begin serious talks with the Colts, it’s hard to see it become quite as dramatic as things have been with Taylor.
Of course, if Taylor is still on the roster by then, and he must watch yet another one of his teammates get an extension before he does, things could get even uglier.
During Thursday’s edition of The Ride With JMV, John spoke to Stephen Holder of ESPN and Mike Chappell of CBS4 and FOX59 about Jonathan Taylor, and his dispute with the Colts. Listen to those conversations below, and tune into The Ride With JMV weekdays from 3-6 on 93.5/107.5 The Fan!
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