With so many free agents, a new GM, Luck and rebuilding on the horizon it's worth taking a look at the 2012 cap number of the Colts. The Colts have around 57 guys (including Manning) under contract for 2012. I could be wrong on some no-name, PS, minimum salary guys, but their salary doesn't matter anyway. These 57 guys count around $96 (95-97) million against the cap. (My only sources being spotrac, rotoworld and indystar pages.)
The franchise tag for Mathis will likely be just under $11 million. For that amount, the Colts will most likely use the tag unless they can sign him in time. Mathis being #10 and #18 in sacks the past two seasons and being over 30, a 3-4 year contract with $9 million in 2012 sounds more, than reasonable.
The franchise tag for a WR will be around $9.5 million. Garcon should get a back-loaded contract with a cap number of $5 million in 2012, Wayne, lets say $7 million in a front loaded contract. I doubt any team would give more, his knee can give up any game and he would be back at his 2010 self.
Then you have Tamme, Saturday, Pollak, Richard (all 3 current centers), Gonzalez, Lacey (RFA), Wheeler, Diem, Anderson, Brayton, Foster, Sims and a few roster fodder guys being the remaining free agents. Lets not even calculate with them.
The rookie draft class will cost around $7.5 million.
If Colts re-sign Mathis, Wayne, Garcon for 9+7+5=21 and sign the draft class, the cap number gets to $124.5 million, which is around the cap.
So who do we cut or trade. Cutting Bullitt saves maybe 0.7 million. Cutting or trading Brackett saves around 0.2 million, which is nothing. Trading Clark saves around 1.7 million. Cutting Hughes creates a bigger cap hit, than keeping him means. Cutting Painter saves 0.58 million. There are two places to cut big money. Freeney and Manning. Signing Freeney to a reasonable 3-year contract could save $7 million. He could earn just as much in the next 12 months, as he would under his current contract, so he should be on board. And with Manning, you can save $17 million by not picking up his option.
Without Bullitt and Painter and a reworked Freeney contract, the cap number is $116.2 million and it's questionable if 6 (7 - Luck) draft picks can fill like 10 holes, and there is no depth.
Without Manning, the cap number would be at $99.2 million, Manning could go to a contender and the Colts could sign 2-4 veteran starters and some depth.
With a separation, the chances of both Manning and the Colts being contenders in the next 3-4 seasons probably would increase dramatically. Maybe the Colts should set Manning free, because this marriage won't make any of them happy.