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 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.
Reid and Rocky Boiman make a tackle vs. Houston
Here are the four levels of tenders and compensation required this year:
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.
Darrell Reid was undrafted, so the Colts would receive nothing in return if they chose not to match another team's offer. And in Reid's case in particular, he would have a lot of suitors if Indianapolis chose to only offer him the $927,000 tender.
During the 2007 season, Reid got a chance to shine when given more playing time, as a result of a season-ending injury to Anthony McFarland and nagging injuries that plagued Raheem Brock throughout the year. Though statistics may not show it — he was only credited with 10 tackles and one sack for the season — he was a valuable member of the team, joining the tackle rotation and filling in admirably for Raheem Brock or Ed Johnson, whether the former was hurt or the latter needed a breather.
Additionally, he was a special teams standout, working primarily as a wedge buster. He performed so well in this capacity that he was voted as an alternate to the Pro Bowl — a rarity, since most players that go to the Pro Bowl specifically for their efforts in the kicking game are generally cornerbacks, wide receivers, linebackers, long snappers, or gunners.
Heading into the 2008 season, the Colts would have a very formidable, fairly young tackle rotation with Brock, Johnson, Quinn Pitcock, McFarland, and Reid, if they choose to retain the last two men. McFarland is an interesting situation for Indianapolis and we recently discussed what the Colts should or shouldn't do about his hefty salary for next season.
My opinions are in black and white, but Indianapolis officials have yet to tip their hand one way or the other. The kind of tender they offer Reid might give Colts fans some insight into McFarland's future.
Indianapolis obviously can't use the minimum tender, since that would be an open invitation to the other 31 teams in the NFL, as everyone could use a capable, young defensive tackle that is a special teams ace.
If the Colts use the $1.47 million tender, that shows that they are serious about keeping him, but are unwilling to invest too much in him until he proves himself with a heavier workload and more reps.
However, if they use either the $2.017 million or $2.562 million tender, that shows that they mean business and that they are more willing to invest their resources in Reid's future with the team. In order to clear the cap space to make that move, as well as signing the rest of their restricted free agents, they would probably need to sacrifice McFarland's present.
Regardless, the Colts need to tender Reid with the $1.47 offer sheet at a minimum. If they sign him to more than that, it's probably bad news for McFarland, especially if they sign Reid to the $2.562 million tender.