In January, Bill Polian indicated that the Colts had developed strategies to address each of four possible outcomes pending the CBA negotiations. Yesterday’s post explored what the Colts’ team-building strategy might look like should a CBA agreement be reached before tonight’s deadline. This post looks at the next possibility – that the NFL and NFLPA reach an agreement in relatively short order after the current CBA expires, say 2-4 months. In this scenario, the only thing that is certain is that the draft will take place April 28-30 as planned. Current players will be prevented from entering team facilities or attending meetings beginning Friday, March 4. If there is no CBA for only 2-4 months, then it is likely that a shortened free agency period will still happen, but it would take place after the draft. In my opinion, this is the worst case scenario for the Colts.

Under this scenario, the Colts must predict as best as possible what the market value will be for their own pending free agents, determine what they (the Colts) are willing to offer them, then adjust their draft board accordingly. It means they will probably need to rely more on rookies to replenish at positions where they stand to lose players to free agency or age/retirement, with the offensive line, safety and running back positions being particularly vulnerable. It also means they must be near spot on with their free agent value assessments, lest they offer too much to retain a free agent, or worse, lose someone they thought they could retain and not have enough talent waiting in the wings. It also means they have to guess which free agents from other teams will be available, and plan to have the space (roster spot and salary cap-wise, assuming the cap returns) to sign someone, should they target him.

While this type of speculation happens every year, the pressure here is really on making sure every draft pick counts. With only 6 picks in this year’s draft (the Colts traded a conditional pick to the Redskins to acquire CB Justin Tryon), and with a recent history of some not-so-great picks, the pressure is even higher. The only bright side is that all other teams would face the same scenario, so there are bound to be mistakes that could favor the Colts.

A final note on this scenario – if an agreement is not reached tonight, there will still be uncertainty as to when it will get done. The team can’t know to put into action Plan B or Plan C – if they roll with Plan B (short work stoppage), but the deal gets done too close to the season to allow for a real free agency, they could find themselves not having optimized their cap space and with players on the roster whom they might not have planned for. If they gamble and assume a longer work stoppage, they may not be prepared to sign their own free agents who they wanted to retain.