Just days after Eli Manning and the New York Giants won the Super Bowl against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, focus shifted from the Giants’ championship to the offseason.
In the very city where Manning bested the Patriots for the Super Bowl for the second time, the Indianapolis Colts evaluate the plan for the future of their football team. And if you take a look at their position, it’s actually very clear what must happen.
The big story surrounding ESPN right now has been Peyton Manning. Questions about his health and his $28 million bonus due on March 8 has led many to believe that Manning will be a free agent before he receives his bonus.
While doctors did clear Manning to continue his career, it did nothing to answer questions about his effectiveness on the field. Will he be able to continue to perform at the high level we’ve all expected from him?
At this juncture, it’s difficult to say.
But the question of Manning’s future as a Colt will not come down to his physical state, as strange as that sounds. Instead, Manning’s future will be determined on one thing: money.
That $28 million bonus will be a huge factor in this story. Manning better be willing to negotiate a new deal that will ease the salary cap burden on his team if he wants to stay.
How is it possible, you might ask, for Peyton Manning to be even remotely considered of being released from a franchise that was able to build a new dome because of their quarterback’s success?
To answer that question, look no further than the résumé of the new Indianapolis Colts head coach, Chuck Pagano.
The Colts hired the former Baltimore Ravens’ defensive coordinator in hopes of bringing toughness to their squad. Toughness is a valuable asset to a football team, but what Colts owner Jim Irsay did not seem to account for was one thing: scheme. The Baltimore Ravens run a 3-4 defense, but the Colts ran a Cover Two.
Indianapolis’ defense is built to be fast and attack certain gaps in run defense.
The defensive line is given a specific gap while the linebackers roam the field and fill any gaps left open by their defensive line. Size for each position is not as important in this scheme, but speed is everything.
3-4 defenses could not be more opposite. Instead of having four quicker defensive linemen up front, a 3-4 needs three big and strong defensive linemen. Four linebackers patrol the edges and the inside, similar to a Cover Two, but speed is not as important because of the advantageous angles the 3-4 offers to its linebackers.
What do defensive schemes have to do with Peyton Manning being on the team next year? In truth, everything.
The Colts have the first pick in this year’s NFL draft, and they have even said that Stanford quarterback will be their pick.
Lacking a quality starting quarterback last year really had an impact on the Colts record and they will finally acquire their long-term quarterback answer.
So without spending their first pick on defense to transition to a 3-4, they will use it to get a quarterback.
That fact alone means that the Colts will have to use other means of getting players capable of running the 3-4: free agency. This method is not cheap and does no favors for teams’ salary cap.
In other words, the Colts will need more cap room. This is why Manning must be willing to work out a new contract if he wants to remain on them team.
Indianapolis is in a state of transition and they need all the financial help they can get.
Only then can the Colts keep Manning, get Luck and add quality 3-4 players to the defense. The Colts are in an awkward position because their future Hall-of-Fame quarterback is in danger of being released. Ryan Grigson, Indianapolis’ new general manager, does not want to be known as the guy who released Peyton Manning.
Both sides should come to an agreement to get Manning’s contract under control. But only time will tell to see if the Colts will be able to get the help they need.