The Indianapolis Colts made it official on March 7 when the NFL club announced it was releasing quarterback Peyton Manning after 14 years with the team. Manning spent his time well in Indiana by becoming the league’s only four-time MVP.
As with most press conferences when players retire, are released, or traded, there are many tributes paid and this one was no different. Jim Irsay, the Colts owner, let everybody know how great Manning has been for the club, the city, and the state and said there will never be another player like him.
However, for all of his talent on the field and ticket-selling ability, Irsay didn’t feel it was worth paying Manning a $28 million bonus by March 8, which would have triggered the last four years of his $90 million, five-year deal which was signed last summer. The team suffered without Manning last season, going 2-14, and now has the number one overall pick in the draft and plans on using it to select quarterback Andrew Luck out of Stanford.
Manning is now a free agent and can sign with anybody he likes, The early favorites appear to be Cleveland, Arizona, Miami, Kansas City, the New York Jets, Seattle, Washington, and San Francisco. He sat out the entire season last year due to injuries and a series of neck surgeries. He’s been cleared for action by doctors, but it appears that Irsay just wasn’t sure the 36-year-old Manning could return to his usual form or could see out the remaining four years on his contract because of his medical situation.
The Colts managerial team changed dramatically when the team’s record plummeted without their all-star quarterback as coach Jim Caldwell and GM Bill Polian were both fired and replaced by Chuck Pagano and Ryan Grigson. Now it’s believed the playing roster will also be overhauled with the release of Manning and the expected release of Reggie Wayne. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon is also set to leave town since he turned down a contract offer from the club and will test the free-agency waters.
The Colts are still on the hook for $10.4 million on the salary cap next season because of Manning’s contract, even though he’ll be playing somewhere else. Manning was drafted originally by Indianapolis in 1998 with the number one pick overall from the University of Tennessee. With the Colts, he won seven AFC South crowns, a pair of AFC titles, a Super Bowl ring, and earned the MVP honors at Super Bowl XLI. He was also named to the Pro Bowl team 11 times and statistically is the franchises’ all-time leading passer.
He leaves the team with 399 touchdown passes and a total of 54,828 yards. He managed to start in 208 straight games with the Colts before suffering a neck injury and missing the 2011 campaign. He may be able to start a new streak if he can prove to interested teams that he’s healthy enough to play. However, he’ll have a bit of competition in the free agent market since Chad Henne, Kyle Orton, and Matt Flynn are also available and will cost a lot less than Manning.
With Manning though, a team will be getting a consistent performer. He owns the fifth-best winning percentage of all time for quarterbacks and led the Colts to 12 or more wins for seven straight seasons, which is an NFL record. His passing percentage has never dipped below 62 per cent other than his first season in the league and he took the team to the playoffs on 11 occasions. Whatever team ends up signing Manning will instantly become a legitimate contender.