The story of the early phase of the 2012 offseason will come from Indianapolis, and it will focus on the payment of $28 million due and owing to Colts quarterback Peyton Manning on or about March 8.
Peter King reported during the NBC wild-card pregame on Saturday that the Colts and Manning may be amenable to pushing the deadline back. On Sunday, Chris Mortensen of ESPN said that Colts owner Jim Irsay and Manning each were “emphatic” that there have been no discussions about moving the date.
In this regard, Manning holds the cards. The March 8 trigger, which comes before the new league year begins, wasn’t selected accidentally. Agent Tom Condon wanted Peyton to have the upper hand, forcing the Colts to fork over $28 million or cut Peyton loose.
If Peyton truly wants to stay with the Colts and if both sides agree come early March that he’s not yet healthy, it should be a no-brainer to bump the deadline deeper into the year. But if Irsay intends, as Tony Dungy believes, to keep Manning “if healthy” and also draft Andrew Luck, Peyton may want a new place to play.
I’ve said for months that Peyton won’t want the Colts to take Luck, not when they could trade the selection and get Peyton multiple players and/or draft picks aimed at helping Peyton win another Super Bowl or two. Ordinarily, a player like Peyton would have no choice but to go along with whatever the team tries to do. In Peyton’s case, if there’s any question about his health and if Irsay is skittish about the possibility of sending Manning’s total haul for two seasons north of $50 million with no guarantee he’ll ever take another snap, a decision to dig in could get Peyton his freedom.
And so Peyton may indeed be willing to delay the due date on the bonus — if he gets an assurance that the first overall pick in the 2012 draft won’t be looming over the shoulder of the first overall pick in the 1998 draft.
It’s doubtful such an assurance could come. As Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star explained this week on PFT Live, Irsay needs to think about the future, not the past. Without Luck, the Colts could return to their hard-luck ways of the past. Which could eventually cause empty seats to infiltrate Lucas Oil Stadium.
And which, as Kravitz fears, could put the Colts in line for a move to the place where the team Robert Irsay originally owed once played its home games.