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Despite Lower Salary Cap, Jim Irsay Still Plans On Making Peyton Manning Highest Paid Player In NFL (Or So We Assume)

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Last night, the Colts held a conference call with owners Jim Irsay and some local media. Excuse me while I vent for a second, but bloggers were not invited. It's a shame, and it's yet another example of the Colts P.R. decisions-makers having their heads up the butts. As I've often said, media access is rarely granted solely by the P.R. or Communications Department at West 56th Street. Craig Kelley didn't call the shots when it came to media access, and I strongly sense the new guy (Avis Roper) is in the same boat. P.R. policy is handed down by the Polians, and so far with Chris Polian, the apple hasn't fallen far from the tree.

For those of you who unnecessarily complain that we harp on this, you're just going to have to deal. This has been, and will be, an ongoing subject here at Stampede Blue because media access and the changing culture within sports media is just as vital to the continued growth of this site as the game on the field is. Part of what we are about is breaking down the establishment for the simple reason that we don't like it. It was that establishment that led to such poor coverage of the team in the first place, and the birth of this site in 2006. Coverage for this local NFL team is one of the worst in the country. Our goal has been, and continues to be, to change that. In several ways, we have. So, if you don't like us talking about it, that's kind of tough. We're going to continue to do it. You can either choose to read it, or not. We make no apologies for the subjects we choose to cover and discuss here.

Back to Irsay's chat, on the call he had some very interesting words to say about Peyton Manning and his new contract. As you all know, Manning has the franchise tag on him. It would be roster suicide for the Colts to have Manning play the 2011 season with that tag. It's simply too much money against the cap (which is roughly $120 million this year) for the Colts to field a competitive team.

Irsay, via PFT:

I’ve offered to make him the highest paid player.  We know when we look at our team, we need people to surround him to have a chance to win a Super Bowl.  With the cap actually going down this year, [Tom] Brady’s contract is something that would be reduced so-to-speak.  There’s only so much you can pay one player.  Whatever the number is, $20 million, you’re topping off there.  Then it becomes very difficult to be competitive and to field a team.

As PFT notes in its article, these statements are different than what Jim Irsay was signing prior to the lockout.

He is going to be the highest paid player and he is going to make more than Brady.  At the same time, under the system, you cannot pay a player $25 million dollars. It’s just not going to work and you’re not going to be able to compete.  We have to get something done and I look forward to doing that.  I’ve had a conversation with Tom Condon and we’ve talked in the last couple of days.  Bill Polian and him will process in the next days to come. It’s something that we need to get done.

Again, these statements by Irsay suggest concern on his part for how the new Manning deal will affect the team's ability to sign additional talent. Manning having a $25 million dollar cap hit against the 2011 bottom line is simply not a workable solution. That cap number must go down.

However, from Manning's point of view, and from the P.O.V. of the soon-to-be-re-certified-NFLPA, it is not the player's job to make sure his yearly cap hit fits within the team budget. That's the general manager's job, and it's a job Chris Polian is paid very handsomely to do. We all know Manning is worth the money he is going to get, and if that money doesn't work itself into this flawed roster, one could argue that the fault is not Manning's. It's Bill and Chris Polian's fault.

Maybe if Bob Sanders wasn't signed to a bloated and over-valued contract in 2008, we wouldn't have this issue.

Maybe if Kelvin Hayden wasn't signed to a bloated and over-valued contract in 2009, we wouldn't have this issue.

Maybe if Gary Brackett wasn't signed to a bloated and over-valued contract in 2010, we wouldn't have this issue.

Maybe is money and draft picks weren't wasted on Tony Ugoh, Mike Pollak, and Donald Brown, we wouldn't have this issue.

Now, from a P.R. standpoint (see how we brought this back full circle), what is likely to happen should Peyton demand his full value and tell Irsay and the Polians that the cap 'problems' they are whining about don't concern him, the spin that will likely echo both from West 56th and the the willing media is that Peyton is being 'greedy.'

Listen, you and I both know that without Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts simply do not exist.

Diehard Colts fans hate hearing that, but it's the truth. Peyton himself knows it. The only reason the Colts fill that downtown stadium (paid for with public money) is Peyton. The only reason the Colts get all those primetime games on NBC and ESPN is Peyton. The only reason this team won ten games last year and not five was Peyton.

People don't pay top dollar to see Dwight Freeney sack someone or Anthony Gonzalez to trip over his own feet and injury his knee. They pay to see Peyton. Peyton is the Colts, and Jim Irsay needs Peyton a helluva lot more than Peyton needs Irsay. That's the plain, simple, honest, cold-hard, big-foreheaded truth.

This exact same situation will play in in New Orleans with Drew Brees next year and with Matt Ryan in Atlanta when their contracts are up. Prior to Brees, Saints fans wore bags on their heads. Before Ryan, Atlanta fans were embarrassed to admit they had season tickets. Brees and Ryan will most certainly demand their full value, and that value will be measured by what Peyton gets this year. Thus, all members of the NFLPA are VERY interested in seeing Peyton push for his full value.

For all professional players, getting paid is more important than 'winning.' This is, after all, a business, folks.

All that said, even though Peyton and Tom Condon have Irsay's gonads locked in a vice, I think they all will agree on something that will help Indy's cap and allow the Colts to sign some people that can get this team back to a Super Bowl. Peyton is very conscious of his legacy, and he is a fierce competitor. If any professional athlete has the drive to win in an environment when paychecks are more valued prize than rings, it's Peyton.

Whatever is agreed to, it will be in the best interests of Manning and the Colts. The pressure will then be on the Polians not to screw up the roster going forward as they have done for the last four years, or so.