An Alternative Perspective: Trading Away the Franchise

Today’s post comes from occasional fan contributor Stephen Reed, who has contributed several pieces for Coltsider, and will continue to contribute from time to time. 

With all the “new” information being leaked or tweeted over the past few weeks about Peyton Manning’s neck, it’s only appropriate to address a possibly developing issue. People say that they need to either cut Peyton Manning or keep him and take a risk on his health. However, it seems as if the two sides can agree to move back the payment date on his roster bonus. What we do know is Peyton Manning wants to play football in 2012. He is determined to play football in 2012. He likely will play football in 2012. The $28 million question is where?

*It is recognized that the NFLPA will argue that this is unable to be done due to the new CBA while the NFL will say that moving back the deadline is not renegotiating the contract because the money or terms of the contract hasn’t changed. If it is movable there is a question as to whether it would be considered part of the 2011 or 2012 league year. For purposes of this article, it is assumed that they can move back the due date and it will be a part of the 2012 league year. Additionally, it is assumed that Peyton Manning and his representatives are willing to move back the due date. If the contract can be renegotiated, then it would be sense for both sides to do so if they truly want to work this situation out.

If the Colts and Manning agree to move back the deadline to just after the league year begins, it could put the Colts in a worse cap position. They will have basically the same opportunity to make an educated decision on Manning’s health. Remember that currently the $28 million bonus has already been prorated to be a part of the 2011 cap number and if the due date were moved back the Colts would lose the $5.6 million cap credit they would have received had he been cut prior to March 13. If they exercised the option and traded him, the cap hit would be increased from $38.4 million to $44 million. It should be noted that if the option is moved a few days after the start of the new league year then the Colts could still trade Peyton without taking the $28 million cap hit. This scenario would require them to have a trade partner already lined up before the start of the new league year and that team must be willing to exercise the $28 million bonus almost immediately or quickly renegotiate his deal. Manning would be more receptive to this date than the others because it forces the Colts to make a decision, likely cutting him, so he can sign wherever he sees fit. Thus, it would actually be cap prohibitive to move the due date to just after the 2012 league year begins but it would likely be the date Manning would be willing to accept.

If they could move back the date to the beginning of April, the cap situation would remain the same. However, it would give the Colts an opportunity to get a better gauge on Peyton’s progress. This would also open up the possibility of a trade because if he is traded prior to the due date, which would make a lot of sense for other teams, the Colts would only be on the hook for $16 million of the accelerated cap hit from his $20 million bonus Peyton received last summer. It would make more sense for QB needy teams because they could get Manning and avoid going after a free agency QB. They could also not worry about drafting a QB early in the draft. Manning may not be amicable to moving the date back to here because would be unable to choose his destination. While the Colts would actually be worse off if Peyton is traded after the due date, moving the due date back to the beginning of April would give the Colts a few more options but it wouldn’t really change their situation nor would it change Peyton’s situation unless miraculous progress is made in his rehab.

The next possible date to move the due date to is the beginning of May. This would be beneficial to the Colts in terms of potential draft pick value if they chose to trade Manning. Once again, the cap situation remains the same. However, teams that did not get their QB during free agency will have an extra incentive to trade a little more for Peyton Manning. Additionally, the Colts can get creative in the deals they accept. For instance, similar to other deals, there can be a potential escalator clause in a trade. This would allow the Colts to receive a draft pick or two this year and if Peyton plays even a down next year, they will receive another draft pick from his new team. The new team would take some inherent risk in trading for Peyton Manning given his health condition, but it would be slightly lessened given a clause similar to the one mentioned above. Manning may be willing to move the date back because it would give him more time to get healthy. However, it would not allow him to choose a destination of his liking, which could be problematic. Moving the due date to early May, would be the best option for the Colts but less beneficial for Manning.

The last option is to move the due date after June 1. This doesn’t really help Manning but helps the Colts slightly in terms of salary. For Manning, it would give him more time to recover but after June 1, most teams will have their QB situation resolved. This would also not be beneficial to the Colts because his market value would decrease substantially. At that point, there would only be a team or two that would be interested in Manning. However, it may allow the salary cap hit to be lessened because if he were cut after June 1, the “dead money” would be spread evenly over the 2012 and 2013 caps.

It should be generally accepted that Peyton Manning wants to move on from Indianapolis. The misleading leaks from “sources” have only solidified this. He seems to be trying to force Irsay’s hand, toying with the heart-strings of Colts’ nation. By doing this, it shows he will be ready to play, wants to play… elsewhere. While all of the recent medical reports are helping Manning gain leverage now against Irsay, Irsay can use this leverage to his advantage at the negotiating table with potential trade partners. If Peyton truly wants to be a Colt for life, all of this would not be public. The point is the Colts need to be compensated if they lose Peyton Manning.

If the due date is moved to just after the league year begins, it doesn’t really help either party. If the due date is moved back to early April or May, then Peyton Manning should likely be traded. If the due date is moved back to June or later, then the Colts will either take a less valuable trade or cut Manning. If the option is available, the Colts should aim to get a date in early May and Manning should try to get a date just after the league year. From the Colts’ perspective it would make a lot of sense to trade Manning to get additional value from him. While trading Peyton Manning may not be the popular decision to many Colts’ fans, it is necessary. It’s a tough situation, an impossible one to have imagined a year ago, but if the date is moved back, the Colts should trade Peyton Manning.

Note: This scenario is not likely, due to the probable angst involved in moving the date back. There have been multiple, conflicting reports on the issue. However, for the purposes of the discussion, assume the date can be moved back. What would you do?

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.