Michael Pittman Jr. given franchise tag by Colts, making a weak WR class weaker

Michael Pittman Jr. got the franchise tag from the Indianapolis Colts. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

If your favorite team has a lot of cap space and issues at wide receiver, free agency might not offer many solutions.

The free agency class at receiver took some major hits this week. Mike Evans was re-signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and then on Tuesday the Indianapolis Colts gave the franchise tag to Michael Pittman Jr. It's a non-exclusive tag, so other teams can negotiate with Pittman. The tag would be worth $21.8 million this season, via NFL Media, but the Colts and Pittman will keep negotiating a long-term deal.

It's not unexpected that the Colts tagged Pittman. That seemed inevitable. Pittman had 109 catches for 1,152 yards last season despite uneven quarterback play. He is still just 26 years old and one of the building blocks for the Colts.

Michael Pittman Jr. headshot
Michael Pittman Jr.
WR - IND - #11
2023 - 2024 season

Pittman came in as a second-round pick and had an immediate impact. He has two 1,000-yard seasons since entering the league in 2020. He's a big, athletic, productive target who would have gotten a huge payday in free agency. The Colts knew that too, which is why they tagged him.

The Colts using the tag shows how they value Pittman. According to Zac Keefer of The Athletic the Colts haven't used the franchise tag in 11 years, last using it on punter (and current podcast host) Pat McAfee.

That leaves good but flawed options like Calvin Ridley and Marquise Brown as the clear top options at receiver in free agency. Teams have bumped up their values on top receivers in recent years, and not many of them become available in free agency.

The Colts weren't going to let Pittman hit free agency. That's bad news for teams looking to fill a need at receiver.