Colts GM closes door on WR Michael Pittman’s departure

INDIANAPOLIS — Colts general manager Chris Ballard closed the door on the potential departure of wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. in free agency.

Ballard, asked Wednesday if Indianapolis’ leading receiver could hit free agency if no long-term contract agreement is reached before Tuesday’s franchise tag deadline, was adamant the exit is already closed.

“No,” Ballard said.

“We’ve had talks with his agents. We’ll work hard to get the deal done. (The franchise tag) is a tool we can use. I’m not going to say we’re not going to use it, I’m not going to say we are.”

Pittman had a team-best 109 receptions, 1,152 yards and four TD catches in 2023. Using the franchise tag would guarantee a one-year salary of $21.8 million for the 2024 season.

Ballard remains in daily contact with owner Jim Irsay after his medical emergency, and said head coach Shane Steichen also maintains close contact with Irsay.

“He is progressing well,” Ballard said. “We won’t do anything without talking to him.”

Because of the lessons the franchise has learned with quarterbacks recovering from injuries, Ballard is tapping the brakes on 2023 first-round pick Anthony Richardson’s rehab from shoulder surgery.

“I learned a lot of lessons living through the last one. Forgive me for being cautious, and I know Anthony has made some statements. It’s important to be ahead of schedule,” Ballard said. “We’re here to pull the reins and make sure we don’t get too far ahead of schedule. He’s in good shape. He’s throwing. I’m encouraged by where he’s at, really happy about where he’s at.”

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