Despite the uncertainty of their permanence, the Saints and many teams around the league have chosen to use restricted free agency tender offers to retain the rights to players, even if they do not become free agents when the league year expires without labor peace.
In a normal offseason, the Saints would have the right to extend qualifying offers to restricted free agents with three years of experience. According to the rules of the Collective Bargaining Agreement's final league year, which began in 2010, restricted free agents have three to five years of experience.
The Saints and other teams appear to be setting up tender offers according to the final league year rules, even if the rules for restricted free agency change with a new CBA. The league year ends Friday, with a possible lockout to follow. The two sides negotiating at the table could choose to temporarily extend operations as usual if progress is made.
Starters DT Remi Ayodele, OT Jermon Bushrod, SS Roman Harper, G Carl Nicks received offers, as well as DE Jeff Charleston, FS Usama Young, K Garrett Hartley, WR Lance Moore, TE Dave Thomas and RB Pierre Thomas.
Hartley is reportedly close to signing a new five year contract before the end of the league year.
Restricted free agents receive a qualifying tender offer that matches the draft pick compensation required to sign the player away from their old team.
Starting LG Carl Nicks drew a first-round level tender offer. The highest possible tender under the existing system is a first- and third-round pick level. Nicks turned in what was widely regarded as the best season of any Saint offensive lineman in 2010.
Starting LT Jermon Bushrod and RB Pierre Thomas drew second-round level tender offers.