February 15, 2011

Will Saints suffer a mass exodus?

The Saints have the most pending free agents in the league, but when will free agency hit? 

27 Saints would qualify for free agency, 23 for unrestricted free agency, if it begins on March 4 at midnight, but the acrid environment of the NFL's negotiations with its players' union appear to be mired and headed for a lockout and decertification.

The table is set for the owners to lock out the players, for the union to decertify to block the lockout, and months of potential legal wrangling before labor peace could be held. 

While the league year won't begin until a new agreement is set, the NFL Draft will go on as planned. The rookie draft could be the only way for teams to acquire new players until labor peace.

While around the league half a dozen players have received the franchise tag, including Colts QB Peyton Manning, the Saints do not plan to use the tag while it is still an available tool for NFL front offices. 

Of the 27 players with three or more years of veterancy and an expiring contract, six were starters in 2010.

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