A lot of folks are playing the "keep Peyton Manning and trade the #1 pick for a boatload of draft picks" angle. BUT there is another way of looking at it. What is Peyton Manning's salary cap figure again? For this year? Next year? The year after that? Retaining Manning would preclude the Colts from signing free agents, and would also even keep them from retaining some of their own. And not just this year, but over the life of Manning's contract.
By contrast, drafting Andrew Luck would mean that he would get paid $22-24 million over the next 4 years. (That is in contrast with the $28 million that Manning would get on March 8 alone.) It is the $6 million a year that Luck would get versus the $18 million a year that Manning would get. Hmmm ... so how many more veteran starters - more proven players than draft picks - could the Colts sign over that time in free agency? Being just a bit simplistic ... the $28 million that they are paying Manning this season would garner 5 linemen at an average of $5 million a year (Chris Canty, Giants DT, made $5.25 million this year). Being similarly simplistic, $18 million per year for Manning versus $6 million per year for Luck for the 4 years that Luck will play his rookie deal: that is $48 million. Again, assuming that a quality NFL free agent will get $4 million to $5 million ... that would be 9 to 10 players. Stars? No. But definitely good players: starters and top reserves.
And oh yeah ... it isn't like the Colts are just going to stop drafting people. The difference is that with Luck, the Colts will be able to improve themselves via the draft AND free agency. With Manning, you'll only have the draft. Even if you get three #1 picks in return for the 1st round pick ... since one of those picks is an "even swap" (i.e. the #1 overall for Cleveland's #4 overall) the net is just 2 more players. And - again assuming the trade is with the Browns - one of those picks is at #22. Whoopee! Granted, the Falcons gave up 5 picks for Julio Jones, but that was to move up from #27 to to #6, not going from #4 to #1. Plus, 2 of the 5 picks were in the 4th round. So REALLY the Browns only netted 3 picks: a pair of second rounders and #22 overall. The Colts aren't going to get THAT MUCH more than that by trading the #1 pick.
The Colts would get far more players - and proven veterans able to contribute immediately at that - by using the $64 million left on the $90 million Manning contract to chase free agents than they would by dealing the #1 pick. Again, where trading the #1 overall would get them 4 extra rookies max, Manning's contract could get them a bunch of veteran players to plug into the starting lineup and provide veteran depth.
Of course, if Luck pans out, his next deal will break the bank. But that is a better problem to have with a 26 year old QB and a roster stocked with (hopefully) 4 years of prudent drafting and free agency signings than it is to have NOW with a terrible roster and a 36 year old QB.
Which would get the Colts more players?
Trading the #1 pick in the draft (36 votes)
Applying the rest of Manning's contract towards free agency (92 votes)
Doesn't matter: Manning is worth more regardless! (47 votes)
175 total votes