With the salary cap down to $120 million and quarterback Peyton Manning’s franchise tender at more than $23 million, Colts owner Jim Irsay has a problem.
For well over a year, he has been promising to make Manning the highest-paid player in NFL history. Suddenly, Irsay is singing a different tune.
“To me, this isn’t about how much money I have to spend,” Irsay said in a conference call transcript distributed by the team. “The money is going to be spent and we’re already up against the cap and we already have to do something to make adjustments. . . .
“I’ve offered to make him the highest paid player. We know when we look at our team, we need people to surround him to have a chance to win a Super Bowl. With the cap actually going down this year, [Tom] Brady’s contract is something that would be reduced so-to-speak. There’s only so much you can pay one player. Whatever the number is, $20 million, you’re topping off there. Then it becomes very difficult to be competitive and to field a team.”
So what does Irsay think will happen?
“To me, I hope we get something done in the next couple of days. We’ve been ready and I’ve been ready. It’s really important that we get the deal done so we plan going forward, not only cap-wise, but competitive-wise. It’s something I hope gets done quickly and quite frankly, it is should get done quickly. He is going to be the highest paid player and he is going to make more than Brady. At the same time, under the system, you cannot pay a player $25 million dollars. It’s just not going to work and you’re not going to be able to compete. We have to get something done and I look forward to doing that. I’ve had a conversation with Tom Condon and we’ve talked in the last couple of days. Bill Polian and him will process in the next days to come. It’s something that we need to get done.”
Irsay is right. The problem is that the Colts paid Manning top dollar in 2004, and the team still found a way to put enough quality parts around him to win a Super Bowl two years later. Thus, Condon could decide to tell Irsay that figuring out how to pay everyone else isn’t Peyton’s problem.
For now, Peyton could rely on his neck surgery and rehab to justify staying away until he gets the deal he wants. At some point, however, Peyton will face a backlash from fans who realize first that he has more money than his great-grandchildren will ever need and second that his apparent effort to max out his next contract will undermine the team’s chances to win another Super Bowl.
In the end, Peyton has to ask himself whether it’s more important to make money or build a legacy. If he retires with only one Super Bowl win, there’s simply no way he’ll be remembered as the greatest quarterback of all time.
But at least he’ll be able to dry the tears of regret with $100 bills.