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Sports Business

Colts' Irsay sparks war of words with Pats' Kraft

March 23, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay has sparked a war of words of sorts with an old nemesis.

The war could dramatically escalate the salaries of two very high-profile quarterbacks. And could cost Irsay and another high-profile owner millions of dollars in the long-term.

Irsay’s statement in February that he intended to sign quarterback Peyton Manning to a record contract likely raised the eyebrows of Tom Brady’s agent Steve Dubin and furrowed the brow of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

“You know it's going to get done,” Irsay said during Super Bowl week. “I think it’s clear, and we’ll start on it this summer. That’s been the way we do things [to work out an extension when a player is entering the final year of his contract]. And it’ll be the biggest [contract] in history; there’s not much doubt about that.”

Hmm. I’m sure there’s a doubt about that in Dubin’s mind.

Irsay and Kraft have this in common; they both have rock star quarterbacks with expiring contracts after the 2010 season. Manning and Brady have this in common; They both want big money. Pay no mind to the fact the Manning said he’d would play for nothing during an interview this season. That’s not really true.

Dubin and Tom Condon, Manning’s agent, are paying very close attention to the situation with their own and each others’ clients. Rest assured, Condon wants to get more for Manning than Dubin gets for Brady, and vice versa. Not only are they paid a commission on their client’s salary, having the highest paid QB in the NFL is a mighty powerful calling card when it comes to signing new clients.

They both expect to get their clients bigger pay days than New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning—the reigning highest paid NFL player.

Eli Manning, also a Condon client, signed a six-year extension last August that raised his average annual salary to $16.25 million, the highest for a multiyear deal.

Peyton Manning had the highest salary-cap figure ($21,205,718) in 2009 but was sixth among quarterbacks with a $14 million average. Irsay told reporters this week that talks with Manning and his agent will heat up following next month’s draft.

Poor old Brady is working off of a six-year, $60 million contract. That $10 million annual average salary now looks like chump change to the QB with GQ looks. And Dubin is eager to prove the he—and his client—are nobody’s chumps.

Kraft said this week that preliminary talks with Brady are already underway and will soon intensify.

I expect Brady and Manning to engage in an interesting game of chicken. Both will want to wait until the other signs to make sure they are not left behind economically.

Irsay and Kraft, on the other hand, will be eager to get the deals done so they can get on to other matters—not the least of which is signing draft picks and free agents.

It’s true, there is no true off-season. Six heavy-hitters and some awfully big egos are stepping into this intriguing negotiations ring.

Haymakers are about to start flying. Rainmakers are prepared to make it pour.

In the end, one thing is certain. Somebody is going to pay.

Truth be told, Irsay and Kraft will both pay—and pay big.

The only remaining question; Who will pay bigger?

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