Peyton Manning: If Colts Doctors Clear Him to Play, What’s His Future with Indianapolis?

In the past 19 months Peyton Manning endured three neck surgeries, including the fusion of two vertebrae. Although the fusions raised questions about his possible retirement, his personal physician, Dr. Robert Watkins, recently cleared the legendary Colt’s quarterback to again play professional football.

However, Colts owner Jim Irsay reported that, as of yet, Colts physicians had not cleared Manning to play. This statement deepens the intrigue about Manning’s future with the Colts.

In July 2011 Manning signed a $90 million, five-year contract with Indianapolis, which included a $28 million roster bonus due March 8, and therein lies controversy. The Colts must decide before March 8 if they’re willing to pay a 36-year-old quarterback who is coming off three neck surgeries and still hasn’t regained all his arm strength that kind of money. If they don’t pay him the roster bonus, though, Manning becomes a free agent.

It’s a difficult decision; Indianapolis signed Manning with their No. 1 pick in 1988, and since then, the future first ballot Hall-of-Famer has rewritten the Colts and NFL record books. The most impressive may be his record of leading the Colts to 10 consecutive seasons with 10 or more wins, which ended this season when he didn’t play because of surgery. In addition, included in those years was the 2007 Super Bowl Championship he helped bring to Indianapolis.

The Colts, though, must do what’s best for the Colts, and they have the No. 1p ick in the NFL 2012 draft. Indianapolis plans to choose star Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who says he wants to play right away, which is fine, except Manning may be willing to restructure his contract with Indianapolis. After all, when he announced to the league he would sign a performance-based contract with another team, he projected to NFL teams that if he becomes a free agent he’s willing to negotiate.

In a performance based contract, Manning would forego any guarantee and receive a roster bonus at the beginning of the season. Then, at the end of the season, he’d receive another roster bonus; the amount dependent on the number of games he played, and other performance plateaus. If the Colts allow Manning to become a free agent, his willingness to sign a contract based on his performance should mitigate any concerns other NFL teams have in regards to signing him.

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