As expected, it will take a long-term contract for the Indianapolis Colts to keep linebacker Gary Brackett off the free-agent market.
Colts linebacker Gary Brackett can become an unrestricted free agent March 5. - Matt Kryger / The Star
The deadline for using the franchise or transition tags on Brackett passed Thursday.
Check out photos of Gary Brackett in action on the field
Brian Mackler, Brackett's agent, said Thursday he and the team still were trying to work out a new deal prior to the start of free agency on March 5.
The idea of "tagging'' Brackett never was attractive to the Colts. That would have meant a one-year contract of either $9.68 million as a franchise player or $8.373 million as a transition player.
Brackett, 29, has been a defensive mainstay since 2005, starting 72 regular-season games.
Boost for LiljaLilja
Ryan Lilja agreed to take a pay cut to remain with the team in 2009, but the veteran guard has recouped his losses.
Lilja missed the 2008 season with knee issues and accepted dramatic cuts in his base pay to return in '09. However, he started all 16 regular-season games last season and triggered a clause in his reworked contract that returned his base salaries to their original levels -- $3.055 million in 2010, $3.76 million in 2011 and $4.21 million in 2012.
He earned a base pay of $620,000 in '09 (down from $2.35 million), but will recover the difference with a $1.73 million roster bonus this season.