In January, Bill Polian indicated that the Colts had developed strategies to address each of four possible outcomes pending the CBA negotiations. The previous two posts explored what the Colts’ team-building strategy might look like should a CBA agreement be reached before or shortly (2-4 months) after the deadline. This post looks at the next possibility – that the NFL and NFLPA take several (5+) months to reach agreement. In this scenario, the draft will still take place April 28-30 as planned, but would-be free agents would not be allowed to test the market and sign with other teams.

Were foresight 20/20, this would be about as easy or difficult a scenario for the Colts as if the CBA were signed on time. The “easy” part is that the team wouldn’t have to predict the market value of their own free agents – it would be set at some percent increase over their 2010 salaries (I believe I remember seeing 20%, but not sure). Still, the team would need to evaluate whether they would be willing to pay that amount, adjust their draft board accordingly, then release those in whom they aren’t interested once business started up again. The “hard” part is the uncertainty of when this scenario would be declared in play.

Even if/once the deadline is passed, it can only be guessed whether it will take 2, 4 or 6 months to reach agreement (a stalemate longer than that hurts too much to even consider). So NFL teams likely have to implement their short work stoppage plan knowing that the stoppage may extend long enough to lock in their own free agents. Fans might breath easier knowing that Joseph Addai, Melvin Bullitt and Adam Vinatieri aren’t going anywhere, but it could thwart some unspoken game plan that the Colts have been developing for Manning’s final years. And to take care of that elephant in the room, this scenario would also guarantee that Manning remains with the Colts if the exclusive franchise tag didn’t already do so.