ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that the CBA will likely involve the continuation of franchise tags in the NFL and the unrestricted free agency of all players with at least four years service time and an expired contract. This means two things for the Colts. One good, and one bad.
First the good:
Peyton Manning won't be going anywhere.
Of course, he never was. Anything anyone has written to the contrary was always alarmist nonsense without any grounding in reality. The ONLY way Peyton Manning was ever going to become an unrestricted free agent was if the courts ruled definitively and finally for the players far down the road. Nothing in Judge Nelson's ruling nor any indication from anyone at any time ever suggested on any level that Manning was an unrestricted free agent or that he could potentially become one.
This news merely confirms what we've said all along. Manning is going to be a Colt.
Now the bad news:
With free agency rules rolling back to 2009 levels, that means all Colts who have expired deals, at least four years of accrued service time will likely be completely unrestricted free agents. That list includes:
My understanding at the present is that Antonio Johnson and Eric Foster's tenders would still be valid because they have fewer than four years of service time. UPDATE: Apparently Mookie's practice squad year qualifies as his third season, so he's a free agent too.
Muir and Johnson were terrible in 2010. Addai and Session are valuable players, but injuries held them back. While I wouldn't be shocked to see either of them back for the right (read: cheap) price, I don't expect them to be on the 2011 Colts, especially Addai.
Melvin Bullitt poses a bigger issue.
Simply put, the Colts were counting on him to play safety in 2011. Now, he's an unrestricted free agent. However, so is San Diego safety Eric Weddle, who could prove to be an upgrade over Bullitt.
Of course, any free agency discussion will be fruitless until we know what the salary cap will look like and how the Colts will fit under it. It was always important to sign Manning to a long term deal, but now more so than ever. The Colts have to have cap money to sign another safety. A long term deal could provide serious cap relief and help the Colts address a now gaping hole in the secondary.