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Colts place franchise tag on wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr.

Indianapolis is using the franchise tag for the first time in over a decade.

The Colts tagged wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., NFL Network Insider Tom Pelissero reported on Tuesday, per a source. The team has since announced the news.

Pittman will earn $21.816 million in 2024 on the tag. Pelissero added that the sides have been working on a long-term deal and those talks figure to continue, per a source.

Pittman has previously been open to such a move, calling it a "tag of respect" in January and pointing out that no one would be "displeased with $23 million." The 26-year-old ended up a little over a million off in his estimation of this year's price at wideout. Nonetheless, he'll have until mid-July to come to an agreement with the Colts on a long-term deal.

Another option would be to work out a modified one-year contract, but that's the least likely outcome compared to playing out 2024 under the tag or using the next couple of months to strike a new deal.

Not quite a superstar, Pittman has quietly become one of the league's foremost possession receivers.

The former second-round pick is a crisp route runner, seemingly capable of developing chemistry with whoever lines up under center, as he's improved his output from year to year despite spending four seasons navigating Indy's quarterback roulette.

The Colts have used four different Week 1 starters at QB since Pittman's 2020 debut -- Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan and Anthony Richardson -- with multiple starts by Sam Ehlinger, Nick Foles and Gardner Minshew.

Pittman has led the Colts in receptions and receiving yards for three straight years through all the changes, going from 88 catches to 99 to 109, and delivering two 1,000-yard campaigns.

Indianapolis' rare decision to resort to tagging Pittman is a reflection of what he means to the organization, especially as an easy target for the young Richardson, who is coming off a season-ending AC joint sprain.

Once commonplace, the Colts haven't applied a franchise tag since 2013, when they did so for a third year in a row by using it on punter Pat McAfee. They tagged defensive end Robert Mathis in 2012 and Peyton Manning the year before that.

Chris Ballard took over as general manager in 2017 and has previously been able to come to extensions before taking such measures.

Now he'll work with Pittman to decide if an extension is in the wideout's near future, too. Otherwise, Pittman will go into the 2024 season on a second straight contract year.

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