With the lockout finally behind him, Colts owner Jim Irsay addressed the Indianapolis media last night, and talk inevitably turned to the subject of Peyton Manning’s contract situation. Irsay has vowed for two years to make Manning the highest-paid player in NFL history, and we’ve heard over and over how a deal is almost done. But seasons have changed, Manning has aged and still no deal. Now, with a new salary cap structure in place, Irsay is still willing to make good on his promise, but he also made it clear that he’s probably just about done bargaining. As Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star reports, Irsay had this to say on Monday:
"I’ve offered to make him the highest-paid player. (But) we need people to surround him to have a chance to win a Super Bowl. Under the (new) system, you cannot pay a player $25 million. It’s just not going to work. You’re not going to be able to compete."
It’s an interesting figure to cite, as there have been rumors that Manning wants about $25 million per year. The current offer on the table from the Colts, made before the lockout, is believed to be for around $20 million per. That $5 million difference is a decent chasm for a team looking at salary cap issues anyway, so it should be interesting to see who, if either, budges. As it stands, Manning wears the Colts’ franchise tag and will cost them more than $23 million this year. If they continue to tag him, his salary would be over $33 million by 2013 and would clearly blow by Irsay’s definition of reasonable.
So the options seem to be either finding a reasonable solution now or letting Manning play out the string this year and walking next. That second choice is just about unthinkable around here, so I would bet something gets worked out pretty soon. If not, Indy will be a sad town sooner than we expected.