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Pittman, Winfield, Burns among franchise-tagged NFL stars

Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. (31) will make $17.1 million in 2024. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI

March 6 (UPI) -- Michael Pittman Jr., Antoine Winfield Jr. and Brian Burns were among the top players to receive franchise-tag designations before the NFL's deadline to declare the transactions.

NFL teams were given until 4 p.m. EST Tuesday to make the move. Jacksonville Jaguars edge rusher Josh Allen, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins, Baltimore Ravens defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, Chicago Bears cornerback Jaylon Johnson and Kansas City Chiefs cornerback L'Jarius Sneed were the other players to receive the designation, which allows teams to keep pending free agents under control for an additional year at a present salary.

Those teams also can continue talks for potential long-term contracts.

The New England Patriots gave the transition tag to safety Kyle Dugger. That move allows keeps a pending free agent under control for an additional year, but also permits the player to negotiate with other teams. If he signs with another team, his original team will receive compensation.

Pittman, 26, joined the Indianapolis Colts as a second-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The wide receiver totaled career-highs in catches (109) and yards (1,152) in 16 games last season, the final year of his rookie contract. He also scored four touchdowns. Pittman totaled 336 catches for 3,662 yards and 15 scores through his first 62 career appearances.

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (C) logged a career-high 109 catches for 1,152 yards and four scores last season. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (C) logged a career-high 109 catches for 1,152 yards and four scores last season. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

Winfield, 25, also was a second-round pick in 2020. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety totaled 122 combined tackles, 76 solo takedowns, 12 passes defensed, six sacks, a league-high six forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries and three interceptions in 17 starts last season, en route to All-Pro honors.

He also was the NFL's top-rated safety, according to Pro Football Focus.

Carolina Panthers linebacker Brian Burns totaled 46 sacks through his first five seasons. File Photo by Steve Nesius/UPI

The 2021 Pro Bowl selection totaled 384 combined tackles, 266 solo tackles, 27 passes defensed, 15 sacks, 11 forced fumbles, seven interceptions and eight fumble recoveries through his first four seasons.

Burns, 25, was the No. 16 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. The two-time Pro Bowl selection logged 50 combined tackles (32 solo), eight sacks, two passes defensed, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in 16 starts last season for the Carolina Panthers. He totaled 46 sacks through his first five seasons, including a career-high 12.5 in 2022.

Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen logged a career-high 17.5 sacks last season. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
Jacksonville Jaguars linebacker Josh Allen logged a career-high 17.5 sacks last season. File Photo by Joe Marino/UPI

Allen, 26, the No. 7 overall pick in 2019, totaled 66 combined tackles (43 solo), a career-high 17.5 sacks, two forced fumbles, a pass defensed and an interception in 17 starts last season for the Jaguars. The two-time Pro Bowl selection logged 45 sacks through his first five seasons.

Madubuike, 26, joined the Ravens as a third-round pick in 2020. He totaled a career-high 13 sacks en route to Pro Bowl honors in 17 starts last season.

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins totaled more than 1,000 receiving yards in two of his first four seasons. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins totaled more than 1,000 receiving yards in two of his first four seasons. File Photo by John Sommers II/UPI

Higgins, 25, was a second-round pick in 2020. The Bengals pass catcher eclipsed 1,000 receiving yards in 2021 and 2022. He logged 42 catches for 656 yards and five scores in 12 games in 2023, while limited by injury. Higgins caught 257 passes for 3,684 yards and 24 scores through his first 58 NFL appearances.

Johnson, 24, was another second-round pick in 2020. The Bears cornerback logged 36 combined tackles, 31 solo takedowns, 10 passes defensed, four interceptions, a touchdown and a forced fumble in 14 starts last season, en route to Pro Bowl honors.

He was the top-rated cornerback in the NFL in 2023, according to Pro Football Focus.

Sneed, 27, was a fourth-round pick in 2020. The Chiefs cornerback produced one of his best seasons in 2022, logging a career-high 108 combined tackles (75 solo), 11 passes defensed, 3.5 sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 17 starts. He totaled 78 combined tackles (60 solo), with 14 passes defensed, two interceptions and a fumble recovery in 16 starts last season.

Sneed, who won Super Bowls with the Chiefs in 2023 and 2024, was the No. 30 rated cornerback by Pro Football Focus last season. He rated as the No. 3 slot defender over the last four seasons.

Sneed and Johnson will make $19.8 million in 2024, unless they reach long-term agreements with their teams. Allen and Burns are set to play under $24 million, one-year salaries.

Madubuike will make $22.1 million under the terms of the franchise tag. Pittman and Higgins will receive matching $21.8 million salaries. Winfield is due $17.1 million.

Dugger is set to make $13.8 million from the transition tag.