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Does Colts’ Michael Pittman Jr. deserve to be paid like a number one receiver?

Michael Pittman Jr. is in a contract year. Do the Colts see him as a legit number one, and are they willing to pay him like one?

NFL: SEP 24 Colts at Ravens Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Michael Pittman Jr. is on the fourth year of his rookie contract with the Indianapolis Colts, and the team has a decision to make regarding his next contract. The offseason came and went with no inkling that contract negotiations were occurring. Pittman stated that although he would like a new contract, it wouldn’t be a distraction for him in 2023.

If you have watched the Colts play over the last few seasons, it is evident that Pittman is the best receiver on the team, having taken over the mantle as the great T.Y. Hilton began his decline. With rookie Alec Pierce struggling to find his footing in the early going, Pittman has been looked to even more as the top wideout. He is most assuredly the Colts number one receiver. Just because he is the best the Colts have on the roster, does that mean he should be paid like a number one?

I think the term “number one receiver” can have different meanings. Is Pittman at the level of Justin Jefferson, Tyreek Hill, and Davante Adams? Is that the level to which he should be held? Is it fair to say there are 32 teams, so there can be technically be 32 number ones? I am not sure either approach is correct, so let’s simply break down his numbers in comparison to the rest of his WR counterparts.

Receivers tend to not set the world on fire in their first year, so I am going to start in 2021 when Carson Wentz was the quarterback.

In 2021, Pittman put up some solid numbers, with 88 receptions (15th), 1,082 yards (16th), catch percentage of 68.2 (28th), and 6 touchdowns (18th).

In 2022, Pittman caught balls mainly from Matt Ryan. He increased his receptions to 99 (8th) and catch percentage to 70.2 (23rd). His yards fell to 925 (24th) and the touchdowns dipped all the way down to 4 (32nd).

After three games in 2023 with two different quarterbacks, Pittman has 25 receptions (7th), catch percentage of 73.5 (21st), 230 yards (20th), and one touchdown (tied for 23rd).

Those are the numbers, but numbers don’t tell the whole story. Since coming into the league, Pittman has had six quarterbacks throw him the ball. That hasn’t allowed him to develop much chemistry which is very important between the two positions. Even with the inconsistencies, he has continued to improve his total receptions (current pace is 144!) and catch percentage. The one area that fans would like to see improvement is touchdowns.

If he can boost that number and maintain his other categories, I don’t see much doubt in Pittman as a number one receiver. Does he deserve Jefferson money? No. Is he going to be in the top half of receivers in the league overall? I think so. The Colts have no one else on the roster than can duplicate his production, and Ballard refuses to sign a free agent wide receiver. That is why I am confident a deal will get done to keep Pittman around and pay him handsomely.