The most anticipated contract in the history of professional athletics is the one Peyton Manning will get after the 2010 season. He is the best player in the most popular league in America. He is the face of that league, with many of the players following him as an example of how to act both on and off the field.
The other side of Manning's contract is how the negotiation of the numbers will factor into the labor fight looming on the horizon between the NFL players and the owners.
It could be the beginning of a very ugly war between the players and the league. Specifically, it could indicate whether the NFL Players Association and league work out a new collective bargaining agreement or if players will be locked out by owners in 2011.
"If Manning [of the Indianapolis Colts] doesn’t get the kind of contract we all expect or, worse, doesn’t get a deal done at all, that really means it’s going to be war," an agent said last week. "There has never been a player with more leverage than him. No one. If he can’t get a deal done at his price, we’re all in trouble."
Part of the reason it could get ugly is that if Manning does not get what everyone knows he should (aka, a record-setting deal), it will mean that the players do not have the power they once felt they had. All top-level NFL contracts start with quarterbacks, and Peyton is the unquestioned best. Maybe people in New England think different, but no one really cares what they think.
"Everything is based off what quarterbacks make," an executive with an AFC team said. "That’s the top end in terms of the whole league … you might have some team where the quarterback isn’t always the top-paid guy, but the top guys in the league are always going to be quarterbacks and it’s going to work its way down from there."
The problem with investing record money in Manning is that there is no guarantee he will play next year. As of right now, we are headed into a locked out 2011 season. So, from the owner's POV, throwing over $100 million at a player who is not scheduled to even play next year is a big roll of the dice.
"There’s no way I could see that any owner is going to spend that kind of money on one player and not have football," the AFC executive said. "You spend $7 [million] or $8 million on somebody, OK, that’s just common-sense business. You spend $20 [million] or $30 million, you’re making a commitment."
Boiling this all down to its essential elements, if Peyton gets the deal he should get, there will likely be football in 2011. If he does not, count on a lock out in 2011.
Somewhat of a side note: Isn't it amazing how the NFL players look to Manning to come throw in the clutch both on and off the field. I mean, seriously, his contract is going to be the measuring stick for all other NFL contracts going forward. People are really relying on him and Tom Condon to negotiate a deal that will very likely send shockwaves throughout the rest of the league.
"Peyton is the man," Saints safety Darren Sharper(notes) said. "I’m not a quarterback, so I’m not getting quarterback money. But my [agent] can always argue, ‘If a quarterback makes this much, this guy should make this much.’ "