Tom Brady, Peyton Manning contracts could make things interesting in 2011

As if we didn’t have enough off-field contractual intrigue to track over the next year, two of the best quarterbacks in the game will give us even more.

Like the Patriots' Tom Brady, Colts QB Peyton Manning enters the final year of his contract.
Like the Patriots’ Tom Brady, Colts QB Peyton Manning enters the final year of his contract.

This season, both Tom Brady of the Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Colts enter the final year of their contracts. Currently, a deal for neither player seems to be close.

As to Brady, a recent report from Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports suggests a "growing disconnect" between player and team, based on the lack of progress in contract talks and Brady’s decision to make only cameo appearances in Foxborough during the current offseason. As to Manning, owner Jim Irsay vowed in February that a record deal would be coming. Recent comments from team president Bill Polian suggest the Colts would like to wait until the contours of the next labor deal become more clear.

Here’s the problem. Once Manning and Brady finish the final year of their respective commitment, they’ll have more leverage, since they’ll be poised to hit the market without taking on any further injury risk. And while the franchise tag probably will be available, why wouldn’t a team that needs a quarterback be willing to hand over two first-round draft picks, especially when using one of them on the most important position in the sport constitutes a coin-flip proposition?

Sure, the Pats and Colts would have the right to match any offers made to and accepted by their franchise quarterbacks, but unless the new labor deal wipes out the poison-pill maneuver, the quarterbacks could receive offers that can’t be matched.

And even if the new labor situation deep sixes the poison-pill power-play, which if done properly forces the player’s original team to guarantee the full amount of an otherwise partially guaranteed deal, a different team may be willing to pay Brady or Manning far more money than the Patriots or the Colts, respectively, will pay to keep them.

While the Colts likely will pay whatever it takes to keep Manning in a horseshoed helmet until he retires (and they’d likely use the exclusive version of the franchise tag to keep him from getting away), the Patriots may not break the bank for Brady.

Let’s rewind to 2001. The Pats embraced the ability to replace a face-of-the-franchise quarterback who had become bigger than the team with a no-name sixth-round pick who happily accepted his role and aspired only to get better at it. A Super Bowl win made the transition from Drew Bledsoe to Brady even easier.

Nine years later, Brady has become bigger than Bledsoe ever was. Three Super Bowl wins. The greatest single season by any quarterback — if not any player — in NFL history. A supermodel wife who makes more money than him. And a hankering for living in Los Angeles that keeps him from fully committing to the team during the underrated weeks in which plans for the coming season are made.

Combined with the fact that Brady no longer appears to be interested in giving the team a hometown discount, it wouldn’t be a shock if coach Bill Belichick decides just as there’s no "I" in "team," there’s no longer any "team" in Brady.

That’s not to say the Patriots would ever slam the door on the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Instead, they’d apply the non-exclusive version of the franchise tag, try to work out a new contract, and wait/hope for another team to make a ridiculous offer, collecting two first-round draft picks in the process.

The transaction would give the Patriots a trio of first-round picks in 2011, and two in 2012.

So where would Brady go? In that regard, a third still-elite quarterback who’s due to become a free agent in 2011 could play a major role. Though many believe Brady would make a beeline for the Bay Area, joining the 49ers team for which he grew up rooting, the Vikings may decide to make a play for Brady in lieu of laying lips for a third straight year on the buttocks of Brett Favre. And Brady could be intrigued by signing up with a team that could soon be headed for L.A., especially given that they’d be one of the few franchises with widespread strengths at positions other than quarterback.

In the end, both Manning and Brady will be looking to grab top dollar. Manning always has done it, and Brady now seems to be ready to give it a try, if for no reason other than to close the gap with the spouse.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

As if we didn’t have enough off-field contractual intrigue to track over the next year, two of the best quarterbacks in the game will give us even more.

Like the Patriots' Tom Brady, Colts QB Peyton Manning enters the final year of his contract.
Like the Patriots’ Tom Brady, Colts QB Peyton Manning enters the final year of his contract.

This season, both Tom Brady of the Patriots and Peyton Manning of the Colts enter the final year of their contracts. Currently, a deal for neither player seems to be close.

As to Brady, a recent report from Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports suggests a "growing disconnect" between player and team, based on the lack of progress in contract talks and Brady’s decision to make only cameo appearances in Foxborough during the current offseason. As to Manning, owner Jim Irsay vowed in February that a record deal would be coming. Recent comments from team president Bill Polian suggest the Colts would like to wait until the contours of the next labor deal become more clear.

Here’s the problem. Once Manning and Brady finish the final year of their respective commitment, they’ll have more leverage, since they’ll be poised to hit the market without taking on any further injury risk. And while the franchise tag probably will be available, why wouldn’t a team that needs a quarterback be willing to hand over two first-round draft picks, especially when using one of them on the most important position in the sport constitutes a coin-flip proposition?

Sure, the Pats and Colts would have the right to match any offers made to and accepted by their franchise quarterbacks, but unless the new labor deal wipes out the poison-pill maneuver, the quarterbacks could receive offers that can’t be matched.

And even if the new labor situation deep sixes the poison-pill power-play, which if done properly forces the player’s original team to guarantee the full amount of an otherwise partially guaranteed deal, a different team may be willing to pay Brady or Manning far more money than the Patriots or the Colts, respectively, will pay to keep them.

While the Colts likely will pay whatever it takes to keep Manning in a horseshoed helmet until he retires (and they’d likely use the exclusive version of the franchise tag to keep him from getting away), the Patriots may not break the bank for Brady.

Let’s rewind to 2001. The Pats embraced the ability to replace a face-of-the-franchise quarterback who had become bigger than the team with a no-name sixth-round pick who happily accepted his role and aspired only to get better at it. A Super Bowl win made the transition from Drew Bledsoe to Brady even easier.

Nine years later, Brady has become bigger than Bledsoe ever was. Three Super Bowl wins. The greatest single season by any quarterback — if not any player — in NFL history. A supermodel wife who makes more money than him. And a hankering for living in Los Angeles that keeps him from fully committing to the team during the underrated weeks in which plans for the coming season are made.

Combined with the fact that Brady no longer appears to be interested in giving the team a hometown discount, it wouldn’t be a shock if coach Bill Belichick decides just as there’s no "I" in "team," there’s no longer any "team" in Brady.

That’s not to say the Patriots would ever slam the door on the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Instead, they’d apply the non-exclusive version of the franchise tag, try to work out a new contract, and wait/hope for another team to make a ridiculous offer, collecting two first-round draft picks in the process.

The transaction would give the Patriots a trio of first-round picks in 2011, and two in 2012.

So where would Brady go? In that regard, a third still-elite quarterback who’s due to become a free agent in 2011 could play a major role. Though many believe Brady would make a beeline for the Bay Area, joining the 49ers team for which he grew up rooting, the Vikings may decide to make a play for Brady in lieu of laying lips for a third straight year on the buttocks of Brett Favre. And Brady could be intrigued by signing up with a team that could soon be headed for L.A., especially given that they’d be one of the few franchises with widespread strengths at positions other than quarterback.

In the end, both Manning and Brady will be looking to grab top dollar. Manning always has done it, and Brady now seems to be ready to give it a try, if for no reason other than to close the gap with the spouse.

Mike Florio writes and edits ProFootballTalk.com and is a regular contributor to Sporting News. Check out PFT for up-to-the minute NFL news.

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