At the beginning of the 2011 season had you asked Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay if he planned to ever release Peyton Manning, the four-time NFL MVP quarterback, you likely would have been thrown out the building among hardy laughs from all those in attendance.
Fast forward a bit to the end of the 2011 -2012 NFL year, as it turns out Manning would never play a single down in the regular season after neck surgery, and the Colts went 2-14 in his absence.
That 2-14 season lead to the firing of head coach Jim Caldwell, and most of his coaching staff, after Irsay released long-time executive Bill Polian and his son Chris — the general manager.
Next Irsay hired a new general manager in Ryan Grigson, the former director of player personnel for the Philadelphia Eagles, to help him reboot and hopefully return the team to championship form.
Grigson then hired a new head coach, taking Baltimore’s defensive coordinator away from them by tapping Chuck Pagano as the teams new leader.
With the key pieces in place the Colts can now begin to re-build the roster and the coaching staff — it’s just unknown whether the franchise will rebuild with, or without Manning.
Indianapolis holds the first overall pick in the upcoming draft, and the general consensus around the league is that they will select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck — the best player in the draft — to be their quarterback of the future
That leaves very little room for an aging Peyton Manning who is due a whopping $28 million dollars on March 8th as part of the new deal he signed with the Colts last summer.
That’s a big number, especially considering the condition of Manning’s neck seems to be something of a mystery, and his rehab could run well into the start of the upcoming season.
Irsay and the Colts can’t afford to have Manning on the roster with a $28 million dollar price tag if he is not going to play. The only way they can avoid paying him is to flat out release him.
It may seem unthinkable that he Colts would consider sending Manning into free agency, which would spark the biggest free agent bidding war in the history of the NFL, but recent comments made by both sides seem to only be expanding the divide between them.