Labor strife putting brakes on long-term Manning deal

February 16, 2011
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What’s taking so long?

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay says he wants to make quarterback Peyton Manning the highest paid player in the National Football League, and you’d think Manning would be happy to oblige.

So why haven’t the two sides signed a deal? After all, they’ve had more than five weeks since the Colts season ended Jan. 8.

While I’m certain Manning wants his fair share, I don’t think he’s trying to break the bank. So why can’t Irsay and team president Bill Polian write up a contract worth a few bucks more than the contracts of Phillip Rivers, Eli Manning and Tom Brady and lock up their all-pro quarterback for the rest of his career?

Here’s why:

Signing a long-term deal before NFL owners and players sign a new collective bargaining agreement could have a devastating impact on the Colts efforts to surround Manning with the supporting cast he needs to win another Super Bowl.

That’s why the Colts slapped the franchise tag (a one-year $23 million deal) on Manning on Tuesday, and why I don’t expect the team to sign Manning before there’s labor peace in the NFL.

The new collective bargaining agreement could have a pretty dramatic impact on the salary cap, an issue lost in all the talk of the two sides being $1 billion apart, an adjusted rookie pay scale and the prospects of an 18-game season.

The Green Bay Packers most recent financial statement reported that player costs during the 2009 season were $161 million, up $22 million, while total operating revenue by comparison was up $10 million. The Packers, which are publicly owned, are the only NFL team to disclose team financials.

The Packers’ situation is being used by team owners like a hammer to pound home their point that player payrolls must be controlled.

If the owners get their wish of doling out a smaller percentage of team revenue to players, that could be a serious hit to the salary cap.

Manning’s large slice of the Colts’ total players salary pie could become extra large if the owners are able to strong-arm the players’ union into signing a contract that is less favorable than the one that expires March 3.

Manning (and his agent Tom Condon) knows a lot more about profit and loss statements, salary caps and collective bargaining agreements than Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson gives him credit for.

He knows another Super Bowl ring could do more for his legacy than the short-term cash of a fat contract.

Manning knows he can’t make a serious bid for another Super Bowl surrounded by a cast of practice squad-quality players. He knows the smartest move is to sit tight right now, and see how this ugly battle between the owners and players union works out.


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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.