INDIANAPOLIS —To perhaps nobody's surprise, Tuesday's 4 p.m. ET deadline for the Indianapolis Colts to utilize their franchise tag came and went with no action.
It's the fifth straight year the Colts have not used the franchise tag; the last time they did was in 2013 with punter Pat McAfee.
Indianapolis was certainly not alone this year, however, as this offseason turned out to be one of the least-active franchise tag periods since the option was introduced in 1993. Only five players ended up receiving the franchise tag by their respective teams this year, keeping them with their clubs for one year with a guaranteed salary that is an average of the top-five highest-paid players at their position or 120 percent of the player's previous salary, whichever is greater:
• Dallas Cowboys defensive end Demarcus Lawrence
• Detroit Lions defensive end Ezekiel Ansah
• Los Angeles Rams safety Lamarcus Joyner
• Miami Dolphins wide receiver Jarvis Landry
• Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell
The Chicago Bears, meanwhile, used the transition tag on cornerback Kyle Fuller.
So with the franchise tag deadline now in the past, the league officially moves on to free agency.
The free agency period begins in just eight days, at 4 p.m. March 14, but prospective unrestricted free agents — well, their agents, anyway — can begin entering into negotiations with other teams at noon on Monday (though deals cannot become official until the official start of free agency).
So that now gives the Colts and general manager Chris Ballard a little less than a week of exclusive negotiating rights with the team’s 13 free agents-to-be, should they decide to pursue them prior to the start of the new league year:
• Wide receiver Kamar Aiken
• Inside linebacker Jon Bostic
• Safety Darius Butler
• Cornerback Pierre Desir
• Running back Frank Gore
• Cornerback Rashaan Melvin
• Guard Jack Mewhort
• Running back Christine Michael
• Outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo
• Wide receiver Donte Moncrief
• Center Mike Person
• Quarterback Scott Tolzien
• Tight end Brandon Williams
Ballard said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine that the team will likely move on from Gore in an attempt to get younger at the running back position; the Colts would be interested in bringing Melvin back, meanwhile, but will likely allow him to test the open market, Ballard said.
Kicker Adam Vinatieri, who was also set to become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, was recently re-signed to a new one-year deal.