Since it was reported that the players and owners are close to reaching a new CBA agreement, and details have started to spill out into the media, NFL teams have had to get into high gear in order to prepare for a free agency free for all. It has been reported that free agency rules would push back the unrestricted free agency eligibility to four years from five.
The result is that dozens of players who were previously tendered offers by their current teams will be free to negotiate with and sign with the highest bidding team. There is no doubt that this is a win for the players side in the negotiations but it could be a loss for team’s who were previously protected.
The Indianapolis Colts will have to compete with all other team’s if they hope to re-sign veterans like Joseph Addai, Melvin Bullitt, Antonio Johnson, Charlie Johnson, Daniel Muir, and Clint Session.
Generally, Indianapolis will not re-sign aging running backs like Joseph Addai to multi-year deals. If another team makes a multi-year offer, it could end Addai’s time in a Colts uniform. The question is, will another team ante up for a running back whose value is significantly supplemented by his abilities as a pass blocker and receiver? If so, and depending on the new salary cap, Indianapolis may be looking at a new starting running back in 2011. It is in the team’s best interest, in the short-term, to make a reasonable offer.
Safety Melvin Bullitt may be just as important as Addai for the 2011 season on defense. He is the only strong safety on the team who can stabilize the position after both he and former Colts safety Bob Sanders suffered injuries in 2010. Bullitt has made it clear that only a multi-year offer will keep him in Indianapolis. It makes sense that the Colts will offer a multi-year deal given the state of the position.
Although former starting left tackle Charlie Johnson is consistently regarded as one of the NFL’s worst, it has been no secret that he has been playing out of the position. For a team like the Colts though, he is an extremely valuable asset. It is possible that no team values players who can play at multiple positions, particularly on the offensive line, than Indy. Johnson should demand a multi-year contract at starting guard level to replace Ryan Lilja — after his departure in the 2010 off-season.
With Drake Nevis’s addition to the team in the draft, it is likely that Indianapolis will only be able to make a legitimate attempt at re-signing one of Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir. Johnson is the more talented nose tackle, Muir is more talented as an under tackle, but Indianapolis has a group of players at under tackle. The decision may be made based upon health. Johnson was hurt for much of the 2010 while Muir has stayed healthy.
With Clint Session entering unrestricted free agency the likelihood that he will return to Indianapolis drops significantly. Polian and the front office have a history of letting veteran linebackers go and the performance of 2010 rookies Kavell Conner and Pat Angerer make him even more expendable. As it was Session was going to be entering a fierce competition to retain his starting position, now demanding significant money or a long-term deal will be more difficult and other teams will have a good chance to steal him away.
In terms of current Colts players the best-case scenario would be to re-sign:
Joseph Addai, Melvin Bullitt, Charlie Johnson, and Antonio Johnson.
The worst-case scenario would be to re-sign:
Charlie Johnson and Daniel Muir.