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Irsay ready to begin negotiations on Manning deal

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Peyton Manning is expected to get a pay raise next season.

Oft-injured safety Bob Sanders may have to take a pay cut, and longtime Colts running backs coach Gene Huey is looking for a new job.

It's just one week into Indianapolis' offseason and already one of the NFL's most stable teams is preparing for the whirlwind of twists and turns.

"Yeah, I think something will get done (with Manning), but it's hard to predict when," Tom Condon, the agent for Manning and Sanders, told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

At first glance, it looks as if this will be one of the least contentious negotiations in league history.

Team owner Jim Irsay reiterated late last week that he still intends to make Manning, the only four-time MVP in league history, the NFL's highest-paid player.

But first, the two sides must agree on who holds the distinction now.

Manning's expiring deal, signed in 2004 for $98 million, was one of the largest ever at the time. Four quarterbacks — Michael Vick, Carson Palmer, Ben Roethlisberger and Donovan McNabb — all agreed to deals totaling at least $100 million, though each of those contracts was longer than Manning's. Vick's record-setting $130-million contract also was later voided.

Or it could be annual average salary. Manning's younger brother, Eli, signed a six-year deal with the Giants worth $97.5 million last year, giving him $16.25 million per year. New England's Brady topped that in September, agreeing to a four-year contract worth $72 million, or $18 million per year.

Or perhaps it could be based on guaranteed money. Rams quarterback Sam Bradford got a record $50 million guaranteed in his rookie contract last summer. Even Brady, a three-time Super Bowl winner, couldn't top that. He got $48.5 million.

Irsay has generally cited Brady's deal as the standard, and he's made it clear he wants Manning to stay with the Colts for the rest of his career.

Both sides say negotiations have not yet begun.

"I'm not going to get into any specifics in terms of the negotiations, but I've said before this is an unusual situation," Irsay told The Associated Press. "It's not a normal negotiation, his legacy and our relationship, it's very unusual. You hope it happens a lot, but it doesn't."

Irsay wanted to reach a new deal last summer and when that didn't happen, the Colts tried to make Manning a formal offer during their bye week. Condon then told them Manning wanted to focus on football, not contracts, until after the season.

Now, things could get complicated.

Manning turns 35 in March and although Irsay wants to make him a Colt for life, age could certainly dictate how long Manning signs for — and that could impact the deal's total value.

And this time, the Colts will have to negotiate without a collective bargaining agreement to guide them.

"I think we're going to have to try to move forward with some things before early March, knowing (about the CBA) or not," Irsay said.

Manning's contract isn't the only concern for Irsay.

Indy's list of potential free agents includes running back Joseph Addai, safety Melvin Bullitt, left tackle Charlie Johnson, defensive tackle Dan Muir, linebacker Clint Session and kicker Adam Vinatieri. The good news is none of those players can sign with another team until a new CBA is in place.

The bad news: They still need room to be flexible.

One way to save money could be redoing the $37.5 million contract Sanders signed after winning the 2007 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award. Sanders has played in only nine regular-season games over the past three seasons, and he's missed more games (64) than he's played in (48) during his seven-year career.

On Friday, Irsay said the team was discussing the possibility of redoing Sanders' deal — something Condon is already preparing for.

"I anticipate the same thing you do," Condon said. "The guy doesn't play for three consecutive years, they're probably not real excited about that, and they paid the other safety, what $6.5 million, this year. Is there another team in the league that pays both its safeties more than $5 million? The answer is no. So he doesn't have to tell me anything."

Not enough?

On Tuesday, the Colts parted ways with Huey, who had coached in a franchise-record 304 games as an assistant coach. In 19 seasons with Indy, Huey's star pupils included names such as Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James, and he mentored five different 1,000-yard runners.

After finishing near the bottom of the NFL in rushing the last three years, coach Jim Caldwell decided to make the move that was first reported by WTHR-TV and later confirmed by the Colts.

Irsay's No. 1 priority, of course, remains working out a new deal for Manning.

"I think the market's out there and you know it's something we'll work on. The offer will reflect him being right there with Brady and being at the top," Irsay said. "We look forward to getting something done."

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  • Manning who
    The numbers show that Manning is a regular season winner. He has a losing record in the playoffs. Instead of ensuring he is the highest paid player in football history isnt it smarter to make sure you have enough talent and money to build a great team around him. The league is getting better the colts are not.
  • Pouten Manning
    Shouldn't they call him Pouten? He spends a lot of time pouting anyway. I couldn't imagine making an 1/8th of his salary and getting away with that. How about giving Flynn an offer - tha Packers back up? There's a guy with talent and youth without all the pouting.
  • It Flows Downstream
    To bad about Coach Huey, you'd think he had drafted the running backs and O-Line. The coach's work is only as good as the tools management gives him.
  • Patriots are done
    Ramz-
    I understand rating QBs by the number of super bowls they win but c'mon. If the Steelers win the Super Bowl this year does that mean Big Ben is as good of a QB as Brady because they each have three rings? No way is he even in Brady's league. Also, everyone forgets that Drew Bledsoe filled in for Brady during the AFC Championship and was the MVP of that game which allowed them to reach the Super Bowl. There was even some talk that Bledsoe might start over Brady in the Super Bowl. Brady is 5-5 in his last 10 playoff games, 0-3 in his most recent three playoff games (2 of which were at home), and don't get me started on the post Spygate era. Since steroid using Rodney Harrison, Wille McGinnes, Rosevelot Colvin and all of the other studs on the old New England defense left, this team has not been dominant. In fact, the Patriots have shown they are very beatable. In closing, Tom Brady is a great QB and much of the Patriot's success is because of him; however, the defense won those titles, not Brady.
  • Winning formula
    Bill Polian has been very successful everywhere he has been and the Colts are very lucky to have him. I do not put blame on Polian for Mike Pollack, Tony Ugoh, or Anthony Gonzalez along with letting Lilja go. No GM is perfect. However, the Colts have to PAY Manning as he is a sure thing while the other recent investments have not panned out. The entire team is built around Manning which is unfortunate for both Peyton and the Colts, but hey that is the way it is.
    How about paying Manning his money and then focus on improving special teams so that Manning can start his offense past the 20 yard line more than once a season. Also, away with the defense of small/fast guys that does not work unless Bob Sanders is healthy, which means this defenseive scheme is not going to work ever again. Sure the defense does not give up 30+ points a game but they rarely force turnovers and stay on the field forever, keeping Manning off. In summary, improve the special teams and defense so less pressure is on Manning, especially since he will be out of his prime if not already. This formula has worked very for the Steelers and Patriots.
  • Why not spread the wealth
    I've talked with countless fans who wonder why we don't work a deal with Peyton, and Sanders for that matter, that allows us to keep the necessary FA's as well as bulk up our defensive line. I love Muir/Johnson but they need to put on 20lbs each. Foster even more. All that said, if Peyton demands to be the highest paid, I'll give it to him every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
  • Made some valid points
    You make some valid points. I'm originally from Chicago, so I'm a Bears fan, but have been living in Indy since '99, so for the sake of the city, I'm glad that the Colts continue to do well. You make some valid points, I think you're right, if they actually gave him some help and not entirely rely on him for everything, he would have multiple championships.

  • RB Coach
    I hope the new RB coach will tell our backs to run > from tacklers.
  • He definitely is...
    Best ever? Easily. NO question. I live in Indiana, enjoy the Colts and love the Bears. Not partial to Peyton Manning in anyway other than being able to see that no other quarterback out there, past or present has the football mind of this guy. You could plug just about any mid-level or better QB into the system in New England and win football games. Brady is a special player, he's also covered by some of the best strategy and coaching that the game will ever see (choking a little trying to give Belichick props):) Manning has played on teams (and won, mind you) that gave up over 20-30pts/game for an entire season. They have relied on him almost exclusively to win games and lead that team on both sides of the ball. Give him a running game, and some consistent defensive help and he wins two or three championships in the past decade.
    • Win more than one Superbowl
      It's obvious that he'll make the most ever in history, and although he's good, you still haven't proven to be the best ever, 1 Superbowl, so many playoff appearances and that's all you have to show? Please, whether you like Tom Brady or not, he's got 2 more than Peyton has. You don't rack up only 14 pts in a game when you're team is built on the pass only. Until this team is a complete team, I would shy away and everyone should as well in giving Peyton the title of King of the NFL, when you've proven time and again you can't win the big games when it really matters, with the exception of an '06 title. Let's hear the Peyton defense b/c I know its coming.

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