Tribune Star Correspondent
A week ago, Indianapolis Colts coach Chuck Pagano said that it was a priority that the team retain the services of punter Pat McAfee.
McAfee, an unrestricted free agent who's contract is due to expire on March 12, was designated as the Colts' franchise player Friday afternoon. The move allows Indianapolis extra time to work out a long-term deal for the team's special teams ace.
“He’s huge. He’s a major priority in free agency. Obviously, we’ve reached out and are working to get Pat re-signed," Pagano said during the National Football Scouting Combine. "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 [yard line] 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, set up long fields for opponent’s offenses, things like that. It’s a huge priority getting Pat back.”
National Football League teams have until March 4 to decide which impending free agents to officially designate as franchise players. The tag means that McAfee is locked up for at least one year for $2.977 million.
One thing is certain, however. The multi-talented kicker isn't going anywhere. McAfee will be with the Colts long-term.
"It’s an honor to know that I’ll be a member of the Indianapolis Colts for at least another year,” he said in a statement released by the team. “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. Go Colts."
Earlier Friday, when rumors started to circulate that McAfee would be Indianapolis' franchise player, he had tweeted that if true, he wasn't going to complain about the team's decision.
"My dad said that if I complained [about being franchised], he'd kick my butt," the Colts punter joked.
A seventh-round draft pick by Indianapolis in 2009, he has 290 career punts for a franchise record 45.5 average while adding a long kick of 66 yards, which he set in 2010. McAfee has also pinned 89 punts inside the 20-yard line as well as contributing with 123 touchbacks on kickoffs.
He set franchise single season records in 2012 for punting average (48.2), net punting average (40.3), 50.0-yard average games (five) and tied the mark for punts inside the 20-yard line (26). McAfee also established a team record for kickoff touchbacks (45) in a single season.
The former West Virginia standout was named to the Pro Football Weekly/Pro Football Writers Association's and The Sporting News' NFL All-Rookie Teams.
Saturday to retire as a Colt -- Indianapolis team owner Jim Irsay confirmed Friday afternoon that former center Jeff Saturday will be signed to a one-day contract and then officially retire.
"ColtsFans, Jeff Saturday will put on his Colts jersey 1 more time and then retire a Colts at Press Conf coming soon. will have presence with team," Irsay tweeted.
A year ago, when the Colts released Saturday, it was speculated that he would -- at some point -- return to Indianapolis and be hired by the team in some front-office capacity.
Saturday began his NFL career with Baltimore as an undrafted free agent in 1998. He played with the Colts from 1999 to 2011 and was with the Green Bay Packers last season. After being benched midway through the year by the Packers, he was released on Feb. 18.