by Kent Sterling
Don’t begrudge Peyton his cash. He’s worth every dime and then some to the Colts, and to companies who exploit or used to exploit his image to sell Sony stuff, Gatorade, DirecTV, Verizon, Reebok, Sprint, and ESPN. He makes money, but he makes others more. The Colts are still in Indy because of Peyton Manning and the space Lucas Oil Stadium occupies would still be a parking lot without him.
But if Manning wants the Colts to be anything more than a perennial 106 team that goes one and done in the postseason, he and his agent need to give as they get so that the Colts can go out and sign free agents that will allow them to compete for an additional Lombardi Trophy or two.
The benchmark for this deal is the four-year, $72 million Tom Brady got, making him the highest paid player in the NFL. Of that money, $48-million was guaranteed. Everyone involved in the negotiation knows that Manning will walk away with more than that. Jim Irsay tweets relentlessly that Manning will be the highest paid player in NFL history. That is right and just.
Manning is going to own every meaningful positive quarterback record when he decides to hang up his shoulder pads. Allowing him to walk away and reach those milestones with the Washington Redskins would be ludicrous. Manning is smart enough to know that, and so is Irsay. Neither will let that happen.
But what Manning and his agent Tom Condon need to do is back off a little bit to give the Colts the room needed to not only get the Manning deal done, but to go get a supporting cast that can compete for a Super Bowl.
The Colts as they are constituted today are no Super Bowl contenders. They are good, and are capable of beating a team in the playoffs, but the group that allowed the Jets to return the kickoff following the Adam Vinatieri field goal that should have sent the Jet on that long dirt nap of an offseason to the 46, and then was gashed for the additional 29 yard the Jets needed to give long range nightmare Nick Folk a chip shot to beat the Colts is lacking.
The only way to right the ship is to get busy finding capable bodies who can help the Colts get good today. Drafting projects like Jerry Hughes in the first round must stop. The clock is ticking – loudly – on the Colts potential for another championship.
Unless Manning discovers that the water from the Monument Circle fountains has restorative powers that turn back his physical clock, the odds of him getting better are nil. Regardless of how few times he has been sacked or hit, the body at 35 just doesn’t work like the body at 32. And a body at 38, bears little resemblance to one at 35. For those who’ve lived through it, the process is miserable. For those who make their money by exploiting their athleticism, it’s brutal.
By any reasonable assessment, Manning has wealth beyond his ability to spend. After football, he’ll continue to earn more than he can spend. Conservatively, Manning’s earnings have topped $300-million. In Indianapolis, that kind of money could buy a quadrant of the city – on the good side. By all accounts, he’s an exceptionally frugal guy who lives in a modest home (by rich guy standards) and owns a couple of nice condos. He belongs to Crooked Stick Golf Club, and likes to hunt.
What he does with his private life is his business, but there is no denying that Manning has spent less than most would. He is not a Bentley driving idiot who will run through his wealth two years after his retirement.
Given the fact that he’ll be able to easily live off the interest of what he has today, doesn’t it make sense for Manning to resist the temptation to go hard core in his dealings with the Colts? Agent Tom Condon needs to do something to earn his money, but giving the Colts a chance to surround Manning with the level of team he deserves as he enters the twilight of a singularly great career would seem prudent.
If Manning takes less today, wins two more Super Bowls, and retires with all those records, he will certainly be viewed as the best there ever was. The value of being the best ever will mean more cash than whatever this contract is worth.
The smart play is for Manning to relent – a bit. Give Jim Irsay and Bill Polian the latitude they need to get serious about filling that roster with quality, and Manning will forever be thought of as a team first guy whose desire to win outstrips his desire to get paid.
And that’s where the money is.