Could Manning have ulterior motive for delaying contract talks?

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Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and his agent Tom Condon have made it clear that Manning will not be discussing a new contract with team owner Jim Irsay or Colts President Bill Polian until after the season.

Condon told Irsay last week that Manning wants to focus his energy on the current season. That tact is commendable. It’s what we’ve come to expect from Manning.

But there might be an ulterior motive. If you know anything about Manning, you know he’s a calculating guy. The same certainly can be said for Condon, one of the most powerful agents in the game.

Maybe there’s nothing besides the obvious going on. After all, Irsay already has promised—many times and quite publicly—to make Manning the highest-paid player in the National Football League. That should net Manning in the range of $20 million annually with at least $50 million guaranteed.

Still, it seems a bit strange that Manning turned down Irsay’s offer to negotiate a new contract during last month’s bye week. Irsay seemed eager to negotiate a new deal, and confident something could get done.

Manning would appear to have every reason to want to sign an extension. Sure, he’s an iron man who’s seldom injured. Still, this is a violent sport and Manning is one play away from being knocked out of commission with no contract for next year.

So why else would Manning opt not to negotiate a deal? Well, if he continues to play at his current super-human level, his value could actually go up. And since the collective-bargaining agreement between players and owners is set to expire in March, there could be no franchise tag mechanism to keep the QB from becoming an unrestricted free agent.

Now that’s a nice piece of leverage for one of the greatest signal callers to ever play the game.

What else could Manning want besides guaranteed bushels of money? Well, more bushels of course. But maybe there’s something else.

Maybe he wants guarantees after his playing career is over. Maybe a piece of ownership. Who knows?

One thing is certain: For the Colts’ owner, this is about more than retaining Manning. This is about Irsay’s legacy. This is about the ghost of John Elway’s trade to Denver. This is about the new-era Colts that Irsay built after the death of his father.

These negotiations have untold pressures and unparalleled leverage. Despite that, maybe they go as smooth as silk. With Manning, that’s what you’d expect.

But Irsay’s repeated proclamations that he will make Manning the league’s highest-paid player are starting to make him look a little nervous—kind of like a nervous mayor being asked for a new stadium.

After all, no mayor wants to lose a team on his watch. And Irsay can’t afford to lose the franchise, either.

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