Four Restricted Colts Could Be Unrestricted

As of early Thursday evening, the Colts had completed moves on just three of their seven restricted free agents.

Middle linebacker Gary Brackett has agreed to a 4-year contract extension while both defensive end Robert Mathis and Pro Bowl weakside linebacker Cato June both received contract tenders. Mathis received the $2.07 million tender while June received a $1.55 million tender. That's likely going to be enough to keep both in Indy for 2006. If the Colts refuse to match a better offer for Mathis, his new team would have to give up a first and a third-round draft pick, while June's new employer would have to surrender a first-rounder.

But four restricted free agents that were still waiting to see what the Colts would be doing as of early Thursday evening were offensive lineman Makoa Freitas, safety Gerome Sapp, wide receiver Aaron Moorehead and wide receiver Brad Pyatt. All four were paid base salaries of $380,000 last season.

Pyatt and Moorehead were originally signed by the Colts as free agents, so unless the Colts offer them mid-range tenders of $1.5 million, they won't receive any draft pick compensation for them should they lose them. And a low range tender of $712,000 would simply allow the Colts to match any offer they got for them. With the Colts having young receivers in the wings such as John Standeford and Roscoe Crosby, don't be surprised to see them roll the dice with Pyatt and Moorehead rather than committing to an 87 percent pay increase up front. The league minimum for 2006 for all four players is $460,000, and the Colts may not be willing to pay much more than that for Moorehead. And after the number of injuries Pyatt has struggled through, they may not be willing to commit to that much for him. In January they signed former Cardinals wide receiver and returns specialist Dan Sheldon, who could be a healthier version of Pyatt with his speed. So Pyatt might just flat out be gone.

Freitas was forced onto the injured reserve list at the end of the preseason after a serious foot injury that required surgery. He had minor surgery on the same foot in January to remove screws from the original surgery and then begin his rehab. But despite the injury, Freitas has shown himself to be a versatile and reliable blocker when healthy. He filled in very capably for Tarik Glenn early in his career, guarding Peyton Mannning's blindside. He knows the system and is a steady performer -- and that should have enough value for the Colts to bump him up at least to the low round tender. Making that move would also ensure the Colts of a 6th-round draft pick if they are outbid for him. But with the current CBA situation, the Colts might even opt to roll the dice here, figuring that Freitas' market value might be hurt by the uncertainty of coming off of an injury. That would be a huge gamble, but one that I wouldn't be surprised to see the Colts take with their current cap situation.

Sapp has been a special teams star for the Colts over the past two seasons. After starting his career in Baltimore, Sapp was signed as a free agent in 2004. But he was originally a sixth-round pick by the Ravens, so a low tender of $712,000 would at least ensure that the Colts would get equal draft pick compensation for him.

Sapp's a valuable special teams player who finished just one tackle behind Robert Mathis for the team lead with 28. Only one other player, linebacker Rob Morris with 21, completed the season with at least 20 special teams tackles for the Colts. Sapp has a nose for the ball on special teams and is respected for his work ethic.

If the Colts decide not to tender Sapp and Freitas, it could certainly backfire. They are both young and skilled individuals who should find some teams knocking on their doors this offseason. But without a CBA extension and a few extra millions of dollars to work with, the Colts just might be forced to take that gamble.

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