Free agency begins Feb. 28, which is also the deadline for teams to submit qualifying offers to their restricted free agents, ensuring they will have the right of first refusal and possible compensation if the Colts choose not to match the other team's offer.
It's not quite as confusing as it sounds: it essentially means that if the Colts want to keep their restricted free agents, they have to make them one of four levels of offers for next season, and if another team betters that offer, the Colts get a certain level of compensation in the draft.
Here are the four levels of tenders and compensation required this year:
Giordano battles Oakland's Ronald Curry
AP Photo/M.J. Sanchez
Compensation: Round the player was drafted
Compensation: Second-round draft pick
Compensation: First-round draft pick
Compensation: First- and third-round draft picks
For the minimum tender, if the player was undrafted, the team simply gets the right of first refusal if another team makes an offer.
Giordano just completed his third season in the NFL. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2005 out of California, and he's proven himself to be a steady backup at either safety position for the Colts, as well as being a valuable special-teams player.
Giordano started four games in 2007, filling in for an injured Bob Sanders once and Antoine Bethea three times. He made 20 tackles, defended four passes, and made two interceptions — with the highlight of his young career coming in the season opener against New Orleans, when he returned a Drew Brees pass 83 yards for a touchdown.
The Colts' coaching staff obviously has confidence in the speedy safety, and he's been solid as a fill-in. The Colts probably don't want to lose a player of his ability, but he is a backup — and he's not going to wrestle the starting job away from the team's two Pro Bowl safeties anytime soon.
Giordano no doubt understands that, so it will be interesting to see if any teams make overtures at him this offseason and if he'll be interested to go somewhere he can start. But given the injury history of Sanders and Bethea, and that fact that the Colts need his speed on special teams, the Colts would be wise to try to hang on to Giordano.
To help entice him to stay — and discourage other teams from throwing cash at him — the Colts should offer a tender somewhere above the minimum.
At $1.47 million or $2.017 million, the Colts will have to commit some money up front, but if teams know they have to give up a first- or second-round pick to get him now, they may not take the chance on Giordano, who hasn't yet proved himself as an every-Sunday player. Although he has shown every indication that he has the ability to start in this league, he hasn't yet proved it.
He might get his chance to do so in 2008 for another team, and since the Colts are unlikely to make a long-term deal with a backup safety, he probably will be elsewhere once he becomes an unrestricted free agent after next season. But for now, the Colts should to make an offer of $1.47 million for the next season and hope no team goes over the top with their offer.