Ever since the idea of Peyton Manning being cut by the Colts actually became an idea, March 8 has been the date to celebrate, cry, or burn things.
That was sort of wrong, but only in the most optimistic scenario.
The quarterback’s written agreement to play football for the Indianapolis Colts does indeed say that the deadline to pay or not pay him $28 million–and by extension the deadline to cut a sports icon in Indy–is March 8. However, if the Colts intend to keep Manning around and work out a re-negotiated deal, then they have until Friday at 4 p.m. ET to finalize the details.
NFL Network’s Jason La Canfora discovered this little contractual quirk, and he can do a much better job of explaining this than I can. Numbers scare me.
Per the contract, the non-exercise payment date is set for two days before the start of the new league year (the option bonus itself is set for five days before next Tuesday’s start of the league year).
According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, weekends don’t count as part of the league year at this time; Saturday, March 17 currently counts, but not any weekend prior to that date. For the purposes of Manning’s contract, two days before the start of the league year would mean by the end of the waiver period on Friday at 4 p.m. ET.
So there’s a window after the Thursday deadline in which Manning could still be cut and the Colts wouldn’t owe him $28 million, but it’s a brief one. If he’s still a Colt on Thursday we can take that as a very strong hint that Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson have shifted gears, and they’re trying to hammer out a contract that will likely be based heavily on performance incentives and game appearances so the franchise insures itself.
But there’s a strong possibility that Manning still won’t be a Colt by the end of the business day on Friday, and Andrew Luck won’t be an expensive apprentice for at least one year.