Colts franchise tag receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Colts on Tuesday placed their franchise tag on wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who set a career high with 109 receptions for 1,152 yards last season.

The Colts and Pitman's representatives have been in talks in recent days over a long-term extension and tried to reach an agreement before Tuesday's deadline for players to be tagged, but that came up short of a new contract.

“We love everything about him and we want him to be a Colt,” coach Shane Steichen said Tuesday morning.

A franchise tag of $21.8 million for the wide receivers through the 2024 season would allow both sides to continue working toward a long-term deal. The tag greatly limits Pittman's ability to shop as a free agent when the 2024 NFL season begins next week.

It's the first time the Colts have used the franchise tag since 2013, when they used it on punter Pat McAfee.

Non-exclusive franchise tags allow players to negotiate with other teams, but the player's original team retains the right to match any competitive offer or the right to two first-round picks if a player joins a new team.

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Pittman, who had a different start in each of his four seasons in Indianapolis, was one of the most accomplished receivers in Colts history, trailing only five — Marvin Harrison, Reggie Wayne, TY Hilton, Dallas Clark and Bill Brooks. — Catching more passes than Pittman's 336.

He was, so far, a 28.2% target last season for the Colts, which ranked 11th in the NFL. His 208 receptions since 2022 rank fifth in the NFL over that span.

Pittman, who turned 27 in October, missed the Week 16 game after being placed in concussion protocol following a Week 15 win by Pittsburgh Steelers safety Damonte Causey, who was ejected and suspended for the final three games of the season. Pittman was released from protocol the following Friday, but experienced a relapse of symptoms after returning to protocol a day later after arriving in Atlanta for a game against the Falcons.

At 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, Pittman gives his quarterback a big target and is willing and sometimes devastating in the running game. He spoke at length about 2023 first-round pick Anthony Richardson coming to the Colts' lineup and the impact the young quarterback's presence could have on the team's passing game.

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