posted on Mar, 4 2004 @ 01:27 PM
Peyton Manning wanted to focus on the future. Everybody else wanted to talk about his paycheck. On a day Manning won the equivalent of the NFL lottery
by signing the richest contract in Colts history, the league's co-MVP seemed more interested in fulfilling his ultimate goal -- winning a Super Bowl
-- than collecting on his new seven-year, $98 million deal.
By signing the deal Tuesday afternoon, Manning may have almost single-handedly given Indianapolis a chance. A year ago, the Colts (14-5) lost to
eventual Super Bowl champ New England 24-14 in the AFC championship game. But without a new contract, Manning would have played this season under the
franchise tag, counting a league-record $18.4 million against a salary cap of $80.6 million. That would have likely forced major changes to the Colts'
Team president Bill Polian cut five veterans last week to free up some money and said Tuesday he was ready to cut up to eight more players if
Manning's deal wasn't reached before the league's Wednesday deadline to comply with the cap. Instead, Manning agreed to a contract that includes a
league record $34.5 million signing bonus -- $14 million more than Philadelphia's Donovan McNabb. He'll likely earn another $19 million in roster
bonuses, and the Colts can remove the franchise tag, lowering Manning's cap number to $8.3 million.
"This is a player who has performed almost beyond expectations, if you can call it that for a No. 1 pick," Polian said. "He is a very, very
important player for this franchise and he'll probably be a Colt for the rest of his career."