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Lack of CBA leaves Steelers' Colon in limbo

| Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2010

Steelers right tackle Willie Colon is a three-year starter who just completed his fourth NFL season. Under normal circumstances, Colon would be in line for a major payday this offseason as an unrestricted free agent.

He could have received a deal similar to the four-year, $26.3 million contract the Steelers gave left tackle Max Starks last year.

Instead, Colon will remain a restricted free agent if a new collective bargaining agreement between NFL management and players isn't reached by March and the 2010 season is played without a salary cap.

The absence of a salary cap next season would prevent 212 players from becoming unrestricted free agents. Colon is the only player on the Steelers who would be affected.

Colon, who would then require six years to become an unrestricted free agent, said he doesn't mind waiting his turn.

"I want to be a Pittsburgh Steeler for as long as I can," said Colon, a fourth-round draft pick in 2006 and the only member of the offensive line to start every game under coach Mike Tomlin. "This is the organization that sort of birthed me into the NFL. I have loyalty and I love everything about the city. I feel like everything will work out in the end."

Agent Joe Linta said he has never spoken with management regarding a new, multi-year contract for Colon. Linta believes the Steelers will sign Colon to a one-year restricted free agent tender in each of the next two seasons before determining whether to lock him up to a long-term deal.

There are four tender levels in which teams can re-sign their restricted free agents.

Last year, Colon signed a tender of $2.198 million, which would have entitled the Steelers to a first-round draft pick if Colon had signed with another team.

The Steelers will probably sign Colon to another first-round tender.

Restricted free agents are indeed restricted because they rarely sign with other teams.

Last year, none of the 55 restricted free agents changed teams.

This year's free agency period begins March 5.

"If he was in their long-term plans, they would be talking to him. They always redo a guy before he goes into his contract year. The fact that they don't initiate (talks) tells me he doesn't fit their plans," said Linta, who said he hopes to speak with Steelers negotiator Omar Khan about Colon during next month's NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.

"On the other hand, there's no hard feelings. They have their reasons. They're playing by the rules. We have no problems with that at all, but that doesn't mean we have to like it."

Colon said any negotiations he may have with the Steelers will be business, not personal. He insists he won't allow the status of any negotiations, when and if they occur, to affect his performance.

"When it comes to my contract, all I can think about is having some type of stability and security for my family," said Colon, 26. "Whatever happens, happens. There's a lot of things I can't control. I don't like to bark at the upstairs people (in the front office). Joe does a great job as my agent. I let him handle that part. I'm more disappointed about not making the playoffs this year than not having talks about my contract."

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