An early look at the free-agent situation in the AFC South.
Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.
Key figures: Indianapolis has a long history of letting linebackers walk, but middle linebacker Gary Brackett is a special player and a special case. A great tackler and a great leader, the drop-off without him would be significant. And while the Colts surely will be looking to stick to a budget even in what’s looking like a cap-less environment, they can, and should, find a way to ensure he’s part of the 2010 team.
Key figures: Defensive end Reggie Hayward broke his left leg in the 2009 opener and was finished for the season. For a team trying to build a pass rush, maybe he still can be a valuable veteran presence. Three restricted guys are of note: linebacker Clint Ingram, defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison and receiver Troy Williamson.
Key figures: The lack of a CBA will benefit the Texans more than anyone in the division, because middle linebacker DeMeco Ryans and tight end Owen Daniels will be restricted rather than unrestricted. Cornerback Dunta Robinson was ticked off at being franchised last year. Will they do it again? Receiver Kevin Walter didn’t have a great year, but is a valuable piece who could be attractive to a team looking for a No. 2 wideout.
Key figures: Tennessee has more issues than anyone else in the division. Center Kevin Mawae, linebacker Keith Bulluck and end Kyle Vanden Bosch are all unrestricted. Four others will be restricted thanks to the lack of a new CBA -- running back LenDale White, linebacker Stephen Tulloch, defensive tackle Tony Brown and tight end Bo Scaife. Expect a defensive retooling.