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Colts place non-exclusive franchise tag on WR Pittman Jr.

Michael Pittman Jr. Indianapolis Colts Michael Pittman Jr. - The Canadian Press

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on starting receiver Michael Pittman Jr. on Tuesday.

The move was announced less than an hour before the league's deadline and less than a week after general manager Chris Ballard promised Pittman would be a Colt next fall. The two sides have been discussing a contract extension since the end of last season.

Ballard isn't the only one in Indy who wants the tough 6-foot-2, 223-pound Pittman back.

“When you have a reliable player like Pitt that is going to show up every Sunday and make plays like he does, it definitely helps a young quarterback,” coach Shane Steichen said Tuesday. "To keep getting that chemistry with those two guys, building, will be huge for (quarterback) Anthony (Richardson's) growth.”

Under the tag, Pittman can test the free agent market by negotiating with other teams. If he comes to an agreement, the Colts can match the offer. If they choose not to match it, they will receive two first-round draft picks from Pittman's new team.

Indy drafted the Southern California alum in the second round of the 2020 draft and he has started 56 of 62 games. He has 336 receptions for 3,662 yards and 15 TDs during his career and last season became the fourth player in Colts history to catch 100 passes in a single season.

He finished with 109 catches for 1,152 yards and four TDs in 2023 and suffered a scary concussion that led to an ejection of the defender late last season.

Pittman is known for his tough play over the middle and has been the team's most reliable receiver over those four seasons despite entering each season with a different starting quarterback.