Saints lead league in potential free agents

Hypothetically speaking, and everything’s hypothetical in this time of NFL labor uncertainty, the New Orleans Saints lead the league with 27 potential free agents.

Check out this chart put together by NFC West colleague Mike Sando, but keep in mind there is room for uncertainty because there is no Collective Bargaining Agreement in place for 2011, so we don’t know the exact rules for free agency. This chart is based on accrued seasons for players at the start of the 2010 season and players who entered this year with three seasons already under their belts are included. That’s because players with four seasons used to be eligible for unrestricted free agency if they weren’t under contract. Last offseason, an extra year was added to that total.

There won’t be free agency in 2011, unless or until there is a labor agreement. And we sure don’t know what kind of rules a new agreement might include that would impact who is eligible for free agency.

But, at the moment, this list serves as a pretty good guide. The Saints have the most potential free agents and the Carolina Panthers rank fifth with 19 potential free agents.

Atlanta and Tampa Bay are closer to the bottom of the league in this category. The Falcons have 14 potential free agents and the Bucs have 13.