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Should the Colts extend star running back Marlon Mack?

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Harry Aaron/Getty Images

Chris Ballard wants the Colts locker room to feel confident that if they play well, they’ll get rewarded. That is why it is no surprise to hear that they are in talks to extend running back Marlon Mack.

It is not often a profitable venture to re-sign running backs. It is a high-wear position and in recent years teams have been successful running the ball behind a good offensive line despite having less than stellar running back talent. One need look no further than this year’s Super Bowl, which featured two undrafted free agents as the lead backs for their respective teams, to illustrate this point.

Marlon Mack was no doubt the most effective offensive weapon on the Colts’ roster in 2019, which means that the idea has to be explored. His production put him 11th in rushing yards for the season, despite missing two games with a broken hand.

On a roster without a true franchise quarterback and with a clear need to run the ball to be successful, Mack was not slowed. He had his best year as a pro, making better decisions, seeing his vision improve, and showing just how talented and tough he really is.

While all of this is valuable, the question remains just what he is worth. An extension for Mack would likely be 3-4 years, and if past contracts are any indication, would include an out for the Colts after that second or third season. If they were to sign Mack to a 3-year extension worth something like $24M with $11M in guarantees, it would put him in line with several of the top backs in the league in terms of annual pay, but wouldn’t totally break the bank. They could frontload the contract to take its greatest effect in 2020, and that would both reward Mack for his play and show the locker room that when you play well you get paid.

That type of extension would keep him in a Colts uniform through his age 27 season, and then allow them to move on. For a player who seems to be entering his prime, that could be the ideal solution for the team.

The counterargument for this is that giving Mack an extension means the team takes on a higher cap hit at a position that is relatively less important league wide. Around the league, paying running backs has proven to be largely a mistake, with free agent signings of some of the better running backs in the league proving largely to be bad ones.

Additionally, Mack is likely to wait until a player like Derrick Henry signs a deal to set the new standard for running backs, and while he won’t expect the same kind of money, Henry’s signing could certainly help him push for a bigger number in terms of an extension.

The ultimate deciding factor in all this will be whether both sides can arrive at a number they’re happy about, and that would allow them to keep Marlon Mack with the team for a few more years than he otherwise would have, without damaging the Colts’ ability to make moves. This has been an area where Ballard and his front office have done consistently well, so I expect they will make the right call here.

What do you think? Do you want Marlon Mack signed to an extension?