No Franchise Tag for Brackett

The deadline for teams to assign a franchise tag for potential free agents came and went Thursday, with the Colts electing to not use their tag on middle linebacker Gary Brackett — or anyone else.

By not using the tag, the team is now under pressure to reach an agreement with Brackett, the Colts' defensive captain, before the free agency period begins on March 5.

Or are they? There are questions about how much Brackett, would command on the open market, and about just how sought-after unrestricted free agents will be in an uncapped year approaching.

It could cut two ways — with only a few top names on the market, as would happen in an uncapped year, teams may be willing to spend on what's out there — or, with a diluted crop of unrestricted free agents, they may use their cash to tidy up their current salary situations. At least four front-office types used the term "uncharted waters" to describe the current free-agency situation, according to Paul Domowitch of the Philadelphia Daily News.

Still, the Colts would rather not find out — they are reportedly pursuing a deal to keep him in Indy and hope to have it done before other suitors can officially come calling.

The Colts would have had to pay Brackett $9.7 million to keep him around under the franchise tag, and $8.4 million under the transition tag. For a team that often replaces linebackers when their contracts come due, that's too much.

Add in the fact that Brackett turns 30 in May, and the Colts simply weren't willing to put up nearly $10 million, only to go through the same process a year from now.

Brackett fits the Colts better than perhaps any other team. At 5-feet-11, 235 pounds, he's not the ideal size for a linebacker for most teams, but the Colts aren't most teams. Despite never being selected for a Pro Bowl, Brackett has thrived at the position and was the team's second-leading tackler in 2009.

He remains the team's top priority in free agency, but now the deadline shifts to March 5. It's not an unfamiliar situation — last season, Jeff Saturday appeared to be headed out of town before a deadline deal kept him in Indianapolis.

It appears the Colts and Brackett may be headed down a similar path — straight into "uncharted waters." Stay tuned.

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