There have been several articles on Bleacher Report over the past few weeks taking aim at Peyton Manning for “demanding” the largest contract in NFL history. The individuals who wrote those articles don't understand the first thing about Manning or the National Football League Players Association.
It's true that Manning will receive the largest contract in the history of the NFL whenever the lockout ends and teams are allowed to re-sign players. That doesn't mean he demanded it, however.
The fact of the matter is he has no choice.
Think about the ramifications that would ripple through the entire league if Manning didn't ask for the highest-paid distinction.
It is the job of the players, especially those considered “elite” at their positions, to demand top dollar upon reaching free agency. The reason, of course, is it allows other players at that position to use the contract as a reference point for their contracts.
So, even if Manning had a meeting with Bill Polian and Jim Irsay and told them he felt his prior contracts and countless number of endorsement deals were enough for him to live a comfortable life and he wanted to be a “great teammate,” the NFLPA wouldn't allow him to play for the league minimum.
Manning is forced, due to his play on the field and exposure off it, to have his agent ask for more than any other player in his next contract. The next time Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Philip Rivers reach free agency, they will be expected to do the same.
Should the Colts let Peyton Manning become a free agent?
It is a guarantee, unless there are drastic changes to the contract structure in the new CBA, that Manning's contract won't be the highest ever after the rest of the top-level quarterbacks each take their next turn through free agency.
Manning knows his legacy rests on whether or not he wins more championships, so if he had the option of taking less money to make that happen, he would likely take it.
While his contract does force the Colts to take more chances with younger players at other positions, especially on defense, instead of re-signing proven veterans, he is one of the top five players in the league. Blaming him for earning the type of money to prove that just doesn't make sense.
The idea of letting Manning walk and starting Curtis Painter makes even less sense considering Painter has been brutal every time he has stepped on the field for the Colts. Add that to the fact there is no way a rookie quarterback could possibly learn the entire Colts offense in one season, and Manning is, not only, the best choice for Colts quarterback next season, he is the only choice.
Fans around the league attempt to downgrade the excellence of Manning, because he has so many “weapons.” What the fans fail to understand is that those weapons become so deadly because they play with Manning, not the other way around.
In Indianapolis, the offense isn't just built around Manning, he is the offense. Doing anything besides giving him every last penny he asks for to ensure he is the Colts starting quarterback next season is ludicrous and would set the franchise back at least a decade.