Originally posted on Fox Sports Detroit  |  Last updated 2/14/12
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The conventional wisdom in the never-ending Peyton Manning saga deems that the Indianapolis Colts will release the star quarterback by the March 8 deadline, thus avoiding paying Manning the 28 million bonus due him if he is on their roster on that date. Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay no doubt will exchange hugs and shed a tear over the breakup that has to be (not really) and go their separate ways. Manning and the Colts had a great run together for 13 years, until the effects of a neck injury, and three surgeries to repair it left Manning unable to play what would have been his 14th season in 2011. If ever a player and a franchise deserved to have an amicable split, its Manning and the Colts. I may have a minority view on this issue, but the 50 million question I keep asking is why the majority of the public and media weighing in on this issue thinks that cutting Manning on March 8 is the best of both worlds for the player and the franchise. On its face, cutting ties is a win for Manning. His agent can start looking for a team that thinks Manning will be healthy enough to make it a Super Bowl contender. And getting out from under the 28-million option bonus for Manning is a win for the Colts. Mannings departure clears the way for the Colts to draft Andrew Luck with the first pick overall in April and begin a new era with a new quarterback the way they did with Manning in 1998. Here are four issues and scenarios to consider that could be better for the Colts than cutting Manning on March 8: 1. Quarterback value: If money is an issue, would you rather spend 50 million and have Luck and Manning on the same roster or Sam Bradford by himself? Thats not a perfect comparison, but the finances align close enough to make it a legitimate question. In 2010, the Rams drafted Bradford first overall and signed him to a contract that included 50 million in guaranteed money. The rookie wage-scale was instituted last year. Cam Newton, drafted first overall by Carolina, got 22 million guaranteed. Newtons twice the player Bradford is but got 44 percent less guaranteed. This isnt a dollar-for-dollar comparison. Because of inflation, Luck no doubt will get a little more than 22 million, but adding Mannings 28-million bonus to Newtons 22-million guarantee is 50 million. Thats two quarterbacks for the price of one. Which would you take Manning and Luck, or Bradford alone, for relatively the same money? 2. Renegotiate: According to sources, Manning has said hes willing to sign a contract with a new team that is based heavily on incentives. In other words, if the injury prevents him from playing at a high level, he wont be paid at a high level. After 14 seasons with the Colts, it isnt unthinkable that Manning would give the franchise a break on his contract. It could be nothing more than pushing back the date the bonus is due until after the draft, to give the franchise time to work out a trade during the draft, which runs April 26-27. 3. Trade value: The Colts are big winners from the Manning era. He has earned every cent he has been paid. The Colts fell apart last season without Manning, going 2-14. Even if Manning were to return, they arent close to being the team that made the playoffs 11 times in 12 seasons, from 1999-2010. Teams will over-pay in a trade if they think theyre a quarterback away from being a Super Bowl contender. There were two prime examples last season. The Cardinals gave the Eagles a second-round draft pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie for inexperienced quarterback Kevin Kolb. The Raiders sent first and second-round draft picks to the Bengals for Carson Palmer, who proved anew that he was a has-been and not a franchise quarterback. 4. Sentiment: An amicable parting makes for a neat, tidy package out with the old, in with the new, handshakes all around, no hard feelings. But from the Colts standpoint, the issue should be if they can do better for the franchise by paying the 28-million bonus and keeping Manning. From the Colts standpoint, Irsay has the only say on how to resolve Mannings status with the franchise. His obligation and priority should be strictly what is in the best interests of the franchise going forward, and not what makes for an amicable divorce. This is nothing against Manning, whos been a class act and the model "face of a franchise" for anyone, in any sport. When Manning gets to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, hell be in a special place, reserved for the elite among the all-time greats. John Unitas, Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor, Jim Brown, Walter Payton, Jerry Rice and a handful of others are in that rarefied category. Ask the old Colts fans in Baltimore about sentiment. Bob Irsay, Jims late father, moved the team from Baltimore to Indianapolis in 1984. Folks in Baltimore havent forgotten how moving vans departed in the middle of the night. Business trumped sentiment. Reaching an agreement with Manning that benefits the franchise doesnt have to be that callous. Its just business.
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