By George Bremer
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The Indianapolis Colts placed the franchise tag on Pat McAfee on Monday, ensuring the punter will remain with the team for a fifth season.
McAfee was scheduled to beocme unrestricted free agent March 12 after averaging a career-high 47.9 yards on 73 punts last season. The franchise tag will earn him a one-year salary of nearly $3 million, and the team is expected to continue negotiations toward a long-term deal.
The Colts employed a similar strategy last year with outside linebacker Robert Mathis, signing him to a multi-year contract and removing the tag within hours of free agency opening.
“It’s an honor to know that I’ll be a member of the Indianapolis Colts for at least another year,” McAfee said. “I love the city, I love the team and I love being a member of the community. I obviously hope to work out a long-term deal to stay here forever, but one more guaranteed year is awesome.”
The McAfee news was first reported by USA Today’s Mike Garafolo, but was not surprising given head coach Chuck Pagano’s comments during last week’s NFL Scouting Combine.
“He’s a major priority for us in free agency,” Pagano said of the fifth-year punter. “Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed. We saw what he did for us last year. He’s a great weapon, not only kickoffs and touchbacks. I sat in a hospital bed and from home for 12 weeks and watched him pin guys back inside the 20, inside the 10, over and over again.
“To have a weapon like that is a tremendous asset to a team. It helps with field position, helps our offense, helps our defense, sets up long fields for opponents’ offenses, things like that. It’s a huge priority getting Pat back.”
Tagging McAfee allows Indianapolis to turn its immediate attention to other pending free agents including cornerback Jerraud Powers, wide receiver Donnie Avery and defensive end Fili Moala.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday morning the Colts are $44.5 million beneath the 2013 salary cap. The team announced earlier this offseason it will not try to re-sign pending free agents outside linebacker Dwight Freeney and wide receiver Austin Collie.
Free agency begins March 12 at 4 p.m.