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INDIANAPOLIS No matter the “No. 1 wide receiver” debate on Michael Pittman Jr., Chris Ballard always talked like a guy ready to give his young wideout a contract extension.

Ballard did just that on Monday.

The Colts have signed Pittman to a 3-year contract extension, reportedly for a max of $71.5 million with $46 million guaranteed.

Some will, understandably, debate whether or not Pittman deserves a contract amongst the top-flight group of NFL wideouts.

His numbers don’t indicate he deserves that.

But there’s no denying the context with Pittman’s first four NFL seasons, and the environment with the Colts, as he set career-highs in catches and receptions this past year.

The quarterback play around Pittman has been mediocre, at best. Just look at how the Colts have reacted to those quarterbacks in moving on from Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan, specifically, after just one season.

This extension clearly says the Colts think Pittman can produce even more, if they support him better at the quarterback position.

While Ballard has always been steadfast in his praise of Pittman, Shane Steichen has also clearly been a fan of a guy the head coach labels as the ‘enforcer.’

“He shows up every week,” Steichen recently said of Pittman Jr. “He is a consistent football player that is going to give it everything he’s got and when the ball is thrown to him, he’s going to go make plays. That’s what he does every week and he’s consistent doing it. When we need a big play, he’s the guy that makes it for us usually in the pass game. He’s been doing it here for a while and just very fortunate to have him on this football team.

“When you have a player like him and you know that the ball is getting thrown to him in clutch situations and he finds a way to get open and make a play – it’s big time. It says a lot about him, his character, his preparation and his playmaking ability.”

This move gives Anthony Richardson a definite option to build with moving forward.

Skimping at the skill positions is a dangerous game to play with a young quarterback, and that’s why this sort of move makes sense for the Colts.

By no means should it eliminate the Colts from addressing wideout in a potentially substantial manner at some point in the coming offseason/years (and Chris Ballard is quite a fan of this wideout draft class in 2024), but it does give you a reliable player, and someone who Steichen is a fan of having around Richardson in those formative early years.

Pittman, 26, was a second-round pick of the Colts in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The NFL’s free agency for 2024 starts on March 13th.

Here’s a list of the unrestricted free agents for the Colts.

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