On Tuesday, Jim Irsay told the Indianapolis Star that the Colts are in favor of bringing back Peyton Manning ... if he's willing to adjust his contract.
"We can make it work if he wants to be here," Irsay told the Indy Star. "We'd be excited to have him back and finish his career with us.
"I want him to be able to make the choice. We would love to have him back here if he can get healthy and we can look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the ... healing process with the regeneration of the nerve."
Thus, we're left with a two-part question ...
Is there any way Peyton Manning will take a pay cut to remain in Indy and potentially compete with Andrew Luck? And if not, which team would be the best fit for Manning in free agency?
Peyton Manning won't take a cut, and Jim Irsay knows it. He has no motivation to do so -- just as he has no motivation to move back the $28 million option date (March 8) to facilitate a trade.
As Tom Condon alluded to on our network Super Bowl week, Manning has always played out his deals, and if the Colts don't want to honor the letter of this contract, then free agency beckons.
There is no reason in the world for Peyton not to see what is out there. After all, this is a 2-14, rebuilding club that has gutted pretty much everything Manning knew of the Colts.
The PR game continues, and eventually Manning will be released. Then the Colts will draft their next quarterback first overall (most likely Andrew Luck).
Miami figures to be the most desperate for Manning, but the timing will make any dealings tricky. Peyton must pass a physical and perform all the throws to assure everyone he has a clean bill of health.
Manning is not going to re-work his contract to stay with a Colts team that is going to draft Luck and has changed everything from the front office to the coaching staff.
Irsay lobbed a nice public-relations salvo by saying he'd love to have Manning back, "If he wants to be here," and if he'd re-work his contract to be more cap-friendly. What this does is make it seem, publicly, that if Manning won't re-work his contract, he doesn't want to be with a franchise he's made relevant. What we're seeing is a raising of the PR stakes by Irsay, who probably didn't take kindly to Manning's doctor publicly announcing during Super Bowl week that Manning is medically cleared to play.
The stage is being set for a breakup, and it's starting to take a tone that might not end amicably. If Manning does get medically cleared to play, he won't be in Indy. The market for him won't be large, but Manning could be a good fit for the Jets, Dolphins, Cardinals or Chiefs.
Manning has repeatedly stated he would like to finish his career in Indy, so I will take him at his word. I can't see anybody paying him $28 million in guaranteed money, so Manning will have to take a pay cut no matter what. But one thing that must be clear is that Manning will be the starter.
Could I see Manning taking a pay cut? Yes. To compete with Andrew Luck? I don't know. I've heard every analyst say something different regarding whether Manning wants to stay or go. "He wants to finish his career in Indy" or "He wants to go somewhere he has a chance to win it all now" or "He'll probably never play again."
All of these are possible solutions. Still. So let's speculate on what we do know. Here is a very competitive person who has accomplished all one can in pro football as the greatest player on the planet (at one point), a Super Bowl champion, four-time MVP, passing leader, franchise quarterback, No. 1 overall pick and highly respected player among his peers. Yet, after being involved with the game for well over a decade, he still wants to compete. And he also wants to win -- something the rebuilding Colts could have trouble doing, with or without Manning.
The Redskins could represent an interesting opportunity, but at what cost to Manning? Facing his brother Eli twice a year, with average wide receivers and an average line, doesn't sound too enticing. Would Arizona junk the Kevin Kolb experiment this quickly? Is Miami going to miss out on Matt Flynn? San Francisco? (Even though Jim Harbaugh backs Alex Smith at every turn ...)
Give me the Seahawks, who won't get Matt Flynn and play in a division that featured only one winning team and no elite quarterbacks. Though it's difficult to pair Pete Carroll and Manning in my mind's eye, they could afford him, which is also a factor.
Maybe we should just let this thing play out though ...
- Jason Smith NFL.com
Irsay's playing PR games; Manning will look for a contender
Don't believe anything you read about Peyton Manning. This is all about posturing, so both sides can look as good as possible when Manning finally leaves. Right now, the Colts want to seem like, "Hey, we love Peyton -- we just can't afford him." Well, you know what? Don't take Andrew Luck and trade the pick if you want to save $$$. No one wants to look bad, so you're going to get stories like this. I'll tell you how this is going to end: It will be a joint press conference with Manning and Irsay, where both are near tears, and say, "It's been great, but for both of us, it's best if we part, please pass me a handkerchief."
Peyton won't be healthy enough yet for a team to be able to complete a trade for him, so he'll be released. He'll eventually have his pick of teams, but it might be awhile. Many teams that are looking for quarterbacks will have no choice but to fill their holes before they can responsibly acquire Manning, thus taking themselves out of the running.
I think you'll see a large number of teams looking for his services, but in the end it'll come down to who has the best opportunity at a Super Bowl in the next three to four years. And those teams could include the 49ers, Jets, Cardinals and Dolphins. I've been saying the Jets for three months now, and I'm not going to change it. New York is better than Miami, and Manning would love to take on Brady twice a season.
Yes, Manning seems like the kind of guy who would want to compete with Andrew Luck for the starting spot with the Colts. I mean, Manning was so generous with giving away snaps to Jim Sorgi, Curtis Painter and the other curtain-jerkers who served as his understudy over the years. It's certainly in his DNA to be a mentor.
Manning will likely politely beg out of Indianapolis and quietly shop his wares around town. And by quietly, I mean he'll hold a daily press conference to scold the media from talking about his trip to Seattle on Tuesday, his jaunt to Arizona on Wednesday and his trip to South Beach on Friday.
That being said, Manning likely won't take the spiteful approach by going to Jacksonville or something. I don't even see him staying in the AFC. Manning has some connection to Ken Whisenhunt, so he'll do what all retirees do and move to Arizona.