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No deal imminent for Manning, but Colts making progress

INDIANAPOLIS -- Bill Polian says negotiations between the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning are progressing.

Just don't expect the two sides to cut a deal this weekend.

"I would say we are simply moving ahead at a steady pace, but nothing is imminent," the Colts' president told The Associated Press after meeting with the NFL's competition committee Wednesday.

The competition committee is meeting in Indianapolis as part of the NFL Scouting Combine, which opens Thursday.

Manning's deal is the Colts' top offseason priority.

Team owner Jim Irsay said last week he had already offered Manning a deal that would eclipse Tom Brady's record for annual average salary. Irsay did not provide additional details of the proposal, though he acknowledged Manning's next contract could be for five or six years.

Brady signed a four-year, $72 million contract in September, giving him a league record $18 million average salary.

Indianapolis is already hedging its bets, too.

Last week, it put the exclusive franchise tag on the only four-time MVP in league history, keeping him off the free-agent market. Under current rules, Manning could not negotiate with another team, and if he plays under the tag he will make about $23 million next season.

The Colts did the same thing in 2004 when they signed Manning to a seven-year, $98 million contract. They later rescinded the franchise tag.

Polian hopes something can be worked out before the league's collective bargaining agreement expires at the end of the day on March 3.

Manning's deal would have the biggest impact under a new salary cap -- if there is one in the next CBA. But Manning's not the only player the Colts are trying to re-sign.

Indianapolis' list of potential free agents includes Adam Vinatieri, the best clutch kicker in NFL history, running back Joseph Addai, their starter and best blocking back, Charlie Johnson, Manning's blind-side protector, Melvin Bullitt, who would likely move into the starting lineup now that the Colts have released safety Bob Sanders, starting linebacker Clint Session and starting defensive tackle Dan Muir.

Negotiations have also begun with Vinatieri, Irsay said last week, and Polian said the Colts are pressing ahead with all those negotiations.

"We're presuming it's business as usual, and if that changes, we have a plan," he said.

The Colts are certainly not standing pat after winning an eighth AFC South title in nine years. Coach Jim Caldwell also has hired two new coaches and reassigned three holdovers.

In addition to putting the franchise tag on Manning, the Colts claimed defensive tackle DeMario Pressley off waivers from Houston on Tuesday and they released Sanders, the 2007 NFL defensive player of the year, last week. Sanders had played in only nine regular-season games since signing a five-year, $37.5 million deal after the 2007 season.

While it's unlikely Sanders will be back in a Colts uniform next season, Polian said Indy would be willing to bring him back if he does not sign with another team.

"I don't know if I'd categorize it as a chance," Polian said. "It would be nice to have him back, I can tell you that."

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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