Manning is completely open to creating a contract in which he would be paid little or no guaranteed money up front and he would have to earn every cent he makes strictly through performance, according to sources.
An example of how it would work is that Manning's contract could wind up having a big roster bonus due on the first day of the season, and another big bonus based on the number of games he starts in a season. It is a formula that can be used for the length of the contract, limiting the amount of guaranteed money paid up front and ensuring that Manning would have to play to earn his pay.
Manning's open-mindness on the contract will alleviate many of the concerns that teams have about a player facing questions about his arm strength. Manning still is waiting for the nerves in his neck to regenerate so he can attempt to recapture the play that has made him one of the top quarterbacks in NFL history.
Weinke and Manning have been in contact with each other because their cases are similar, according to Weinke, who won a Heisman Trophy and national title at Florida State a year after a neck injury that required a fusion and total nerve regeneration.
Weinke's words to a frustrated Manning were more than encouraging, and his recovery timeline suggests Manning could be playing somewhere, if not Indianapolis, in 2012.
The Colts must make a decision whether or not to pay him a $28 million option bonus due March 8 to extend his contract for four more years. If they opt not to pay him the bonus then Manning would become a free agent.
Manning's doctors have medically cleared him to be able to resume his football career after three surgeries, including a neck-fusion procedure. Colts owner Jim Irsay, however, said Thursday night on Twitter that Manning hasn't been medically cleared to play by Colts doctors.
Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL Insider. ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen contributed to this report.