Indianapolis Colts vice chairman Bill Polian told radio listeners Monday night that the team could afford to keep Manning on its roster next season and still use their first-round draft pick on another franchise quarterback without sacrificing competitiveness.
"The payment to the first-round draft choice is far less than it was under the old (collective bargaining) agreement, so you could afford that," Polian told a caller. "I'm perfectly fine with that approach."
It still would be a pricey move.
Manning agreed to a five-year contract worth $90 million in July, and the deal includes a $28 million bonus payment that's due in February. Manning hasn't played since having neck surgery in May and has barely practiced since striking the deal. If the Colts opt out of the contract, the four-time league MVP would become a free agent.
At 0-11, Indianapolis also holds a two-game lead in the chase for the No. 1 overall draft pick -- which most analysts believe will be used on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck.
Last year's top pick, quarterback Cam Newton, signed a four-year contract worth more than $22 million with the Carolina Panthers, meager compared to the six-year, $78 million deal that quarterback Sam Bradford signed in 2009 as the St. Louis Rams' No. 1 overall pick.
While Polian reiterated his previous position that this is the time to select Manning's successor if the Colts find the right person, Polian has declined to specifically talk about Luck, whom some call the best quarterback prospect since the Colts selected Manning No. 1 overall in 1998.
With Manning's future clouded because of the neck injury, fans are asking why the Colts haven't been more forthcoming about Manning's prognosis. One caller asked Polian on Monday night why the previous game's broadcasters seemed so pessimistic about Manning's possible return.
"I did see something in the newspaper today that alluded to the fact that there had been pessimistic comments made by the commentators," Polian said. "During our meeting, they asked me for a timeline, and I told them I couldn't give them anything anywhere near what would be accurate, that I could give them a guesstimate, and I did. But I did not give them even a germ that indicated he would not play again. So I do not know what they were basing that on."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press