As we often love to pontificate about around these parts, TWITTER IS GRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAT when it comes to getting direct information from a direct source, like, say, Colts owner Jim Irsay.
When the news of Peyton Manning's new contract hit the virtual airways, dorks like me who obsess over all things Colts-related wanted to know, How is the contract spread out? What's the cap hit? Are we going to be able to sign people who have A) Never been on this roster, and B) Can help us win some friggin football games in 2011 (we call these magical people 'free agents')?
Like a galloping steed striding over the sweeping plains, Jim Irsay rode in on his Twitter express and gave us the goodies we ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh so wanted to read:
It's a credit 2 Peyton;he put Coltfans,teammates, Ind. n winning ahead of all else.It's 69 over 1rst 3(23 a yr.1rst 3)90 over 5,cap friendly
SI's Peter King saw the Manning deal numbers, and not long after Irsay posted his tweet, King texted:
Now we see the Manning deal come into focus. $69m over next 3 ($23m per); new TV deal in 2014 will allow the team to re-do it. Sensible.
Jim Irsay apparently hangs on every word King writes on Twitter. He immediately fired back with:
We got good cap relief this year from 23 mil. WITH Franchise Tag-- to 16mil. With new deal- and no P King,No plans 2 redo..I'm done
And thus, thanks to Peter King annoying Irsay to post the numbers, we have something tangible to work with: A number of Peyton in 2011.
Prior to all this Manning deal-making, both the Colts and the media were saying Indy was over the cap. Andrew Brandt said $2.7 mill and John Clayton guessed $1.8 mill over. I have long assumed both were factoring in Peyton's franchise tag tender with that number. That tender would have required the Colts to pay Peyton $23 million in 2011. That figure is a ludicrous cap hit. Indy might as well forfeit the season if they have to pay $23 mill out of a $120 mill cap to just one player.
Thus, moving a player initially counting $23 mill against cap to $16 mill gets the Colts about $5 mill under the cap.
Next, we have the news of Kelvin Hayden getting cut. He was scheduled to count $9.1 mill against this year's cap. His salary was $6.1 mill and his bonus $2.7. From what I know (and that's very little), the bonus counts against cap. Hayden was owed an additional $5.4 mill in bonus money going forward. That money, coupled with this year's bonus, counts against 2011 Colts cap if Hayden is cut.
This means the Colts will carry $8.1 in 'dead cap' for Hayden this year. Thus, Indy frees up $1 mill in cap space for 2011. So, now were down to about $6 mill under the cap.
And then there is Ryan Diem. He's owed $5.4 million in 2011. Cutting him takes $5.4 mill straight off the books. There's no bonus. It's just straight, base salary. If he gets dumped (and I think he will), the Colts are now roughly $11 mill under the cap.
Now, Indy still has rookies to sign, and they just inked Joseph Addai, Adam Vinatieri, and Melvin Bullitt to new deals. We don't know Addai's numbers yet, but Vinny and Bullitt had modest, three-year deals. Again, I'm by no means a math whiz, but if all this figuring is accurate, the Colts do have money right now to sign a free agent or two. Since we know they tried to make a run at Eric Weddle, the Colts do indeed feel that there are, at least, some free agents out there worth pursuing.
This cannot be stressed enough, because it is the plain, simple truth: The Patriots and Eagles have passed the Colts in the talent department, and they did so via free agency and trades. The Packers, Steelers, Ravens, and Jets were already better. The Texans and Jaguars have dramatically improved their rosters, in particular their defenses. Indianapolis barely won the AFC South last year, and it wasn't because of injuries that they were held back. They underachieved because their roster wasn't very good, and Peyton Manning essentially willed them to ten wins.
During this off-season, all the Colts have done is tread water. They've re-signed their own people, now a year older, a year slower. If they want to win a Super Bowl in their home stadium in February, they absolutely MUST dip into the free agent talent pool. If they don't, then Clint Session (a free agent the Colts let go and sign with rival Jacksonville) is right: The Colts aren't contenders anymore.
Rival teams have upped the ante, and if the Polians think that simply signing a few rookie free agents and inking a safety with a metal pin inserted into his shoulder is going to win a championship in 2011, they are, quite simply, deluded. When the opponent ups the ante, you either adapt and respond, or you die. 'Business as usual' will only give you one-and-done in the post-season, at best.
Right now, as currently constructed, this Colts team is not a championship-caliber team. I know it. You know it. Peyton Manning knows it, which is why he took less than many anticipated so that the front office could use the extra bread on new players. Unless we see some new faces on this roster that have significant talent and experience, this 2011 Colts team probably won't even win the AFC South.
As we often say around here: Playoffs are expected. Playoff wins are expected. Super Bowls are expected. Anything less is failure, and in three of the past four years, the Colts have been one-and-done in the playoffs. That is not 'success,' my friends. It is nothing to be 'proud' of. Maybe for Lions fans, that's winning, but for teams that are supposed to work at the highest standard possible, making the playoffs and losing is no different than not making the playoffs.
In order for this team to compete against the top tier, they need new players from the veteran free agent market, or they need to trade for someone. If they don't, then this is another lost season, and we have to wait until 2012 (with a 36-year-old Peyton Manning) before we maybe can start thinking about another Lombardi Trophy.
Cap numbers from ColtsCap.net