It's been asked if the Colts can restructure Manning's deal to make it more cap friendly. The answer is an affirmative with lots of caveats. One such scenario is detailed by Jeff Diamond at Sports Illustrated:
So that brings us to Irsay and his new GM most likely trying to restructure the contract by the March 8 deadline with the primary goal of reconfiguring the $28 million option bonus and turning it into future base salary that is not guaranteed (with perhaps some incentives for high playing time and championships).
Then things get interesting as Manning and agent Tom Condon push back in this high stakes negotiation.
Contract negotiations are about power and leverage. Manning seemingly has the leverage because he can just say no to redoing his contract and force the Colts to either pay him the $28 million bonus or release him to the open market. Teams like the Redskins, Dolphins, Seahawks and possibly even the Jets would surely have interest. But would anyone pay him the $18 million per year in his current contract or anything close, considering the injury risk and that they haven't seen him play an NFL game in 14 months? The Colts, with the $16 million cap hit looming if they release Manning, would likely be the most generous team.
The key here is whether or not Manning would be willing to take such a deal. Right now Manning literally has all the leverage--he can simply hang out until March and collect the money whether he's healthy or not. The Colts can't cut him and field a competitive team due to the large cap hit. The only viable options are to pay him or restructure a deal and he has no obligation whatsoever to accept such a deal.
I don't know that this article is accurate. I've seen several of the points he makes disputed in other sources. I'm disinclined to believe anything in it, numbers wise.
Brandt says the Colts CAN'T renegotiate the deal because of league rules. The $16 million cap hit is something else that others have said isn't true.
@Nate Dunlevy Where did Brandt say that? In his NFP column yesterday, he wrote, "They can try, but it is hard to see the incentive that Manning would have to do so..."
@pierrezombie I think it was on his twitter account.
@Nate Dunlevy Ah, I didn't look back far enough -- thanks, DZ!
Strange that he said that on the 2nd but his column on the 3rd seems to contradict it. Maybe the column was already in the pipeline and the tweet is an update. I hope more comes out on this. Enquiring minds want to know.
@Nate Dunlevy I don't see it there, either -- at least not since his NFP column posted.
Sorry to harp on this, but if it's true that they can't renegotiate it, that might make all the difference. For example, to me it would put the Polians' firing in a very different light.
"That would result in a $16 million salary cap hit for Indy in 2012"
I didn't know the cap hit was that big even if they release him before the bonus is due. So Irsay's really stuck either way.
Which makes me wonder if some of his lofty 'fresh start' talk is an attempt to regain some leverage vs Manning in the pending negotiations. Perhaps something like, "Help me fix this roof, or I'll burn this sucker to the ground" -?
But i really believe and think that he is willing to do it. I mean it's not like they are going to try to pay him veteran's minimum, and he's already pretty much rich. I truly believe he would like to retire as a Colt, so Indy has to present him a real shot at a title, that's the issue. But besides, precisely because of that last Diamond's comment, and because of the prospect of Luck and Griffin, he doesn't have ALL the leverage. So i think it's not out of the question they can actually work it out.
@pajosean Make no mistake: the Colts have no leverage in this situation. Irsay has said it's a family decision and not a football decision. He's also said he's willing to pay Manning the $28M bonus. There's literally no room for the Colts to force Manning to a lower number other than to appeal to his sense of being a good team player. They can't realistically extend the deal nor can they simply cut his salary--he must agree to swap this deal from a front-loaded, guaranteed money deal to a back-loaded, contingent deal.
If they release him and take the cap hit Manning will get another offer provided he's healthy enough to play. Dan Snyder would have a check ready and waiting.