The more time that goes on, the more I believe that Peyton Manning will no longer be in a Colts uniform. Manning has been working since the start of the football season on his rehab since his spinal fusion surgery and as recently as Sunday Night, an NBC Sports writer Peter King, said that Manning is having trouble regaining full arm strength (Yardbarker). Obviously with someone who has as high of a profile as Manning, rumors will swirl and there is no telling what is true and what isn’t, unless it comes from Manning himself. Between the fact that Peyton Manning can’t get healthy, owner Jim Irsay and Manning had a public spat this week (espn.com), Manning is owed $28 million in March for a roster bonus, and the best quarterback prospect in 15 years will be available to the Colts with the first pick, the writing is on the wall.
The issue for Jim Irsay now is how does he cut Peyton Manning? He can’t be traded because no one will want to pay him that bonus, and Irsay probably feels obligated to keep Manning around because of what he did for the Colts franchise. As much as Irsay will say that he can’t or he won’t be sentimental when deciding what to do with Manning, it will be impossible. And despite the fact that it won’t be easy for Irsay to do, he will inevitably have to cut Manning. At the end of the day, the NFL is a cut-throat business, and while it is nice to be sentimental and reminisce about the past, people only care about what has been done for them lately.
So once Manning’s been cut, where does he end up? I personally wouldn’t be shocked if his injury force him to retire, but at the same time, he is far too great of a competitor to want to go out with a whimper. In my mind, Manning will get cut, but will not get signed until after the NFL draft, and he will end up with a team that needs a quarterback and was unable to address it in the NFL draft. For instance, say the Browns get Robert Griffin III and the Redskins can’t, I would expect the Redskins to make a move for Manning after the draft. The Redskins are always a possible destination for high priority free agents because of owner Dan Snyder’s deep pockets, and Manning will want to go to a team that already has pieces in place and isn’t an empty roster. In my mind, his top 5 destination spots in no particular order are: the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks. And as a wildcard team, I’d throw the Dallas Cowboys hat into the discussion; Jerry Jones will literally do anything to win a Super Bowl. Either way, I hope a decision is made soon, because you can rely on ESPN to beat this issue to death until Irsay does something.