Based on the newest proposed timeline for re-opening the business of the NFL, teams will have 3 days to sign undrafted rookies, and negotiate with their rookies and own free agents before contracts can be signed (conditional upon the reformation of the union). For the Colts, this will mean making a decision on approximately 34 players (plus the very special case of Manning), not counting UDFAs. It also doesn’t include the case where some of the current signed players could be released.
Thirty-four players in a manner of 3 days. As someone on Twitter said, good luck to the team staff, who won’t get any sleep next week. It will be exciting and fast-paced, and only the teams who are well organized and – most importantly – have prioritized appropriately will benefit. As an extreme example, if the Colts intend to retain Melvin Bullitt, they can’t wait until Saturday to start discussing a deal with him, and they sure shouldn’t send some intern to do it.
And even though Manning could simply play under the franchise tag (assuming it still has meaning once all is said and done), it would be inappropriate for Jim Irsay to leave details of a new contract to Jim Caldwell or even Chris Polian. Irsay and Bill Polian are the ones who should be involved, and my sense is that Tom Condon’s phone should ring at 12:01am Wednesday.
The way the Colts’ staff personally spends this next week will reflect the priorities of the team. Once next Saturday rolls around, the chaos will only increase. The team will likely have to open business with some of the 34 players mentioned above in limbo (including some who would rather test free agency before signing anything), and they will also be working to fill up to 90 roster spots (which is expected to be the new training camp maximum). This means finding, signing and indoctrinating at least 7 new players, even if they were to retain or re-sign every single player who currently shows on the roster.
This will be a daunting task, and the conditions are such that veteran players with experience are growing in value to the team, even if under normal circumstances they would have been released. It could also mean more difficulty for rookies to land starting roles until perhaps later in the year.