Plenty of you have asked for an explanation of Peyton Manning’s status once, as expected, the Colts release him on Wednesday.
It’s simple. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent.
Although free agency officially opens next Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. ET, that applies only to players whose contracts expire then, like Colts receiver Reggie Wayne.
Actually, Manning is under contract for one more year, four if the Colts pick up the $28 million option. The Colts plan to terminate the contract because the contract requires payment of $28 million, regardless of whether the option is exercised or not, before the start of the new league year on March 13. The only way to avoid the payment is to cut Peyton by Friday, March 9.
Of course, the payment also could be avoided if Manning agrees to delay the due date via a revision to his contract. We’ve previously explained that Manning could do that, if so inclined.
Regardless of whether the Colts have asked him to do it or Manning refused, that hasn’t happened.
And so once Peyton is a free agent, he’ll be free to sign with any team. More importantly, he’ll be able to work out for interested franchises, like receiver Randy Moss did on Tuesday with the Saints.
So if the Colts truly believe they can’t watch Peyton throw while he’s still under contract — a flimsy, hypertechnical interpretation of the CBA aimed in our view at allowing the Colts to say to their fans, “How can we pay him $28 million if we can’t watch him throw?”– they can invite him to show what he can do after he is released, and they can try to sign him to a new contract, if he’s interested.
He won’t be. The Colts are rebuilding, and they fully intend to draft Manning’s replacement. The Colts can’t afford to pay Manning, and Manning can’t afford to try to chase another championship with a team that no longer has the pieces to compete.
in the end, Peyton will join a new team, a move that not long ago was as unthinkable as seeing Joe Montana playing for anyone other than the 49ers, and Brett Favre playing for a team not named the Packers.
UPDATE 10:23 a.m. ET 3/7/12: As Adam Schefter of ESPN points out, Manning technically is available to be signed as of 4:00 p.m. ET, when his name appears on the daily transaction report. As a practical matter, however, the moment the Colts announce that they have relinquished their rights to Manning, he is fair game to be wooed and pursued, and he will be. He just can’t put his name at the bottom of a contract until 4:01 p.m. ET.