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Colts tender 2 safeties, still working on Brackett

The Indianapolis Colts made second-round tenders to safety Melvin Bullitt and left tackle Charlie Johnson and made a first-round tender to two-time Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea.

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The midnight deadline passed without a deal between the Colts and Gary Brackett.

Indy still hopes its defensive captain will be staying home next season.

Despite failing to complete a deal with the Colts before Brackett officially hit the free agent market, agent Brian Mackler and the Colts braintrust were continuing to negotiate - increasing the possibility that the two sides could still reach a deal.

Mackler told The Associated Press in an e-mail, about 2 1/2 hours before the deadline, that the two sides were "working on it." After midnight, he said there was nothing new to report.

But it was an extremely busy day for the defending AFC champs.

They made second-round tenders to safety Melvin Bullitt and left tackle Charlie Johnson and made a first-round tender to two-time Pro Bowl safety Antoine Bethea.

Indy also declined to offer tenders to former first-round pick Marlin Jackson, cornerback Tim Jennings, safety Aaron Francisco and offensive lineman Dan Federkeil. By not making tenders, those four players now become unrestricted free agents and the Colts would not receive compensation if they sign with another team.

Team spokesman Craig Kelley said during the day that the Colts did not expect to make any comments about the moves.

While negotiations with Brackett stole the headlines, the Colts were also trying to figure out how best to make another Super Bowl run.

It started by making a play for Bullitt and Bethea, last season's two starting safeties.

Bullitt has become an increasingly vital cog in the Colts defense, replacing the oft-injured Bob Sanders. In 2008, Bullitt made two interceptions to seal victories and last year, with Sanders unable to play in 14 games, Bullitt wound up fifth on the team with 72 tackles. He also made the fourth-down stop against New England that gave Peyton Manning a chance to rally the Colts in the final two minutes. Agent Leonard Roth confirmed the offer in an e-mail.

Earlier in the day, reported Bethea had been given a first-round tender, a little more than a month after he was selected to play in his second Pro Bowl. Bethea has been a starter since his rookie season in 2006.

The Indianapolis Star also reported that Charlie Johnson, a versatile offensive lineman who replaced Tony Ugoh at left tackle before the start of the season, had been offered a second-round tender.

Rodney Williams, Johnson's agent, and Adisa Bakari, Bethea's agent, did not respond to repeated phone messages or -e-mails.

Agents for Jennings, Francisco and Federkeil all confirmed their clients had not been offered contracts.

The strangest twist came when versatile defensive lineman Raheem Brock wrote on his Twitter account that he had played his final game with the Colts.

"It's been real Indy," Brock wrote.

Brock's agent, Kevin Pompey, could not confirm the Colts had made a move with Brock.

Jackson was Indy's first-round pick in 2005 and the Colts debated whether he was better suited to playing cornerback or safety before finally settling on using him at cornerback. In 2008, though, Jackson missed the second half of the season after tearing the ACL in his right knee. He returned in 2009, mostly in nickel situations, before tearing the ACL in his left knee during a November practice.

Jennings played primarily in nickel packages last season and was ninth on the team with 51 tackles. Francisco played primarily on special teams after being claimed off waivers from Arizona in September. Federkeil has been a backup but finished last season on injured reserve after he sustained a concussion.

The Colts also did not offer kicker Matt Stover, who replaced the injured Adam Vinatieri in October, a new contract. Stover and Brackett were the only two Colts players scheduled to become unrestricted free agents.

Indy had five other restricted free agents, including starting defensive tackles Dan Muir and Antonio Johnson, whose status was not known.

© 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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