Colts pick up Paye's fifth-year option

May 2—INDIANAPOLIS — Laiatu Latu shares an offseason trainer with Kwity Paye and listed the veteran defensive end as one of the teammates he's most looking forward to playing with after being selected with the 15th overall pick in last week's NFL Draft.

The Indianapolis Colts on Thursday took a major step toward ensuring it will be a multi-year partnership.

The Colts exercised the fifth-year option in Paye's contract, fully guaranteeing his $4.3 million salary for 2024 and putting the 25-year-old on the books for nearly $13.4 million in 2025.

It's a move general manager Chris Ballard hinted was more than possible on the night Latu was drafted.

"Kwity is a really good football player," Ballard said April 25. "He had, what, 8.5 sacks last year, plays the crap out of the run. He's a great teammate. I think you know our philosophy. We want to keep as many of our guys as we can. We like Kwity a lot."

Paye has increased his sack total in each of his three NFL seasons, from four as a rookie in 2021 to six in 2022 to a career-high 8.5 last season.

He's also developed into a top-level run stuffer and has consistently put pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The 21st overall pick out of Michigan in 2021, Paye has 129 career tackles, 18.5 sacks, 21 tackles for loss and 29 quarterback hits in 43 games — all starts.

"You talk about trust, right? There's a man that you trust," Colts defensive coordinator Gus Bradley said Wednesday. "On the edge, does things right, comes to work every day, you know what you're going to get. Highly respected by all of his teammates, and I believe — and I think all of our coaches and even this organization (believes) — there is another level for him.

"In this short period of time (this offseason), you can see that in his mind, too. He's excited about (new defensive line coach) Charlie (Partridge) in there and learning some different things right there for him. ... You think he's in a good space right now, just in my visits with him."

There was some doubt about whether Indianapolis would pick up the option after Latu was added to a crowded edge rusher room.

Veteran Tyquan Lewis signed a two-year extension as a free agent earlier this offseason. Samson Ebukam has two years remaining on the free-agent deal he signed last season.

Veterans Genard Avery and Isaiah Land also were brought back this spring, and Titus Leo is returning after spending his rookie season on injured reserve.

Dayo Odeyingbo — the Colts' second-round pick in 2021 — is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

But Ballard is unconcerned about a potential logjam.

"The good thing is when you have Dayo, who can kick inside — you've got to think of third (down). You've got to think of rush downs, too," he said last week. "Tyquan can go inside. You have — shoot, (in 2020, he) played all three-technique for us. Dayo can kick in on third down, so they got versatility, and that's — when you have that, you have a chance to really have some really good green rush units, which we think we do."

For his part, Latu is excited about joining an experienced unit with quality depth.

The Colts set an Indy-era franchise record last season with 51 sacks, and Jacob Martin (two) is the only player who recorded a sack in 2023 who is not on the current 90-man roster.

Latu has been widely praised for his arsenal of pass-rush moves and counter moves and the polish evident in his game.

He's also been highly productive with 23.5 sacks in 25 games over two seasons at UCLA after returning from cervical neck fusion surgery.

"I can't wait to get with guys like Kwity Paye, Buck (defensive tackle DeForest Buckner) and Dayo," Latu said. "Me and Kwity have been training a lot in the offseason together with Coach Eddy (McGilvra). So I'm getting a little feel for (Paye) and just kind of looking up to dudes like that."