To this point the only options the Indianapolis Colts have explored when it comes to Peyton Manning have been keeping him or releasing him. Now that there's increased interest in the franchise quarterback, however, they should strongly consider seeking out trades.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reports there was more interest in Manning at the combine than was previously believed to exist:
There were teams at the combine that once said they wouldn't pursue Peyton Manning now pondering that possibility. Interest in 18 is high.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 27, 2012
The reason trades haven't been discussed in the past was because there's a large salary cap hit if Manning is unwilling to modify his contract. If the team drafts Andrew Luck his stance may change, though. He won't want to be involved in any type of quarterback competition in the coming years.
It just doesn't make much sense for the Colts to let him walk away without getting any compensation when there could be a bidding war to get him. There was already a handful of teams speculated to have interest, so the fact Schefter says the interest is high has to worry the Colts.
They wouldn't be able to justify cutting him only to watch him sign with a contender in the same conference like the New York Jets. He will still have around five seasons of productivity should his health issues be worked out before next season.
Within that time period the Colts will be hoping to be in the mix again, and the last thing they want is having to duel with Manning for a playoff spot when they have nothing to show for it.
It's really a game of chess at this point. Manning wants to be the undisputed starting quarterback without a hotshot rookie looking over his shoulder and the Colts don't want to lose a public relations battle by looking like they forced him out the door.
That said, owner Jim Irsay has to do what's best for the franchise. They are coming off their first brutal season since landing Manning, so they need to figure out the best way to go another decade without one.
Right now it would seem like talking with Manning to rework his contract to make it more trade-friendly is the best move. He could still provide a list of where he ends up in a trade, but at least the Colts wouldn't get left out to dry when it's all said and done.
There's simply no way the Colts can walk away from the entire ordeal without anything to show for Manning and consider it a success. Saving the money is nice, but it doesn’t help for the future, which should be the top priority.
All told, the report puts the ball back in Indianapolis' court and time is running out to make a decision. They can't get caught napping, so now's the time to starting talking.