Peyton Manning better off staying
Indianapolis offers quarterback comfort level, proper time to round into playing shape
Pressed for a prediction regarding Peyton Manning, I'd say the odds favor a release by March 8.
Pressed for a solution to the situation, I'd say the best thing is for Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay to work out a revised contract in order for him to stay. Irsay said last week he would like that to happen, but the decision must be Manning's.
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The public nature of this process, along with the many changes in the Colts' organization, may push Manning to leave. The reason I say staying is the best option is because what Manning needs more than anything else is time, and the comfort of being a Colt offers him the most time to regain his arm strength for throwing the football.
Moving to another team adds to the pressure of his recovery from neck fusion. His new team would want to see him throw in the offseason program and minicamps. It would want him to work out before signing him. Although he is gaining strength throwing the ball, it's hard to think he's able to throw at a Peyton Manning level now.
Manning has been cleared by doctors to take hits, but he needs time to gain more strength in the triceps muscle. In Indianapolis, Manning isn't under pressure to do anything until the start of the season. The Colts will have probable first pick Andrew Luck to handle training camp if Manning hasn't regained full strength.
The contract talks could be tricky. Manning could delay the team's deadline for giving him a $28 million option bonus, but that doesn't make much sense. If he delays the option bonus and is released in May or June, most of the other teams will have resolved their quarterback issues.
Releasing Manning has its own problems. He received a $20 million signing bonus last year, so the Colts would have $16 million of dead money upon his release. Cutting Manning would be only a $3 million hit on this year's cap, but because the Colts have just $11 million of cap room and plenty of needs, that number is significant.
But this really isn't about money. It's about time. Staying in Indianapolis gives Manning time to try to become Manning again.
From the inbox
Q: Do you see Ryan Tannehill as a possible solution for the Dolphins? Mike Sherman, the new Fins OC, was Tannehill's coach at Texas A&M and they ran his pro-style offense. He's projected as a mid-level pick, about where the Dolphins sit. Make sense?
Jarrod in Lorain, Ohio
A: It makes sense, but I don't know if the Dolphins have the luxury of making such a gamble. They can't repeat the decision to pass on Matt Ryan, particularly when they have two other options. They could trade up for Robert Griffin III. They could sign Matt Flynn. If Tannehill turns out to be like Blaine Gabbert in his rookie season or like Chad Henne, the Dolphins will be where they've been for the longest time.
Adam B in Harrisburg, Pa., I agree. I think Nick Barnett can be a tackling machine once the Bills move back into the 4-3 defensive scheme. Ken in New Orleans, the Saints have about $14 million in cap room. Will Smith's cap number is $10.15 million, so the Saints have a tough decision on him, knowing they must try to keep Drew Brees, Marques Colston, Carl Nicks and others. Jesse in New York wants to know how much cash the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will spend this offseason. Great question. They have $67 million in cap room and their current payroll is $70 million. Will they spend $50 million? Not sure. Moses in Chicago asks if the success of Cam Newton is changing attitudes toward spread quarterbacks. I think so, but there really isn't much of a choice. Most of the college quarterbacks coming out are from spread offenses. Zach from Ole Miss loved the Giants' Super Bowl run, but he accepts they may not repeat. I agree with you, though they could win 10 games next year. Brandon in Milwaukee suggests the Packers move Charles Woodson to safety and then go for a free-agent cornerback. The safety move wouldn't be a bad idea, but the Packers would have to get the cornerback from the draft. Brandon in Georgetown, Ky., thinks it's time for the Dolphins to trade Brandon Marshall in a package to get Sam Bradford. The only problem is Bradford won't be traded. Justin in Indianapolis can't understand how the Colts have salary-cap troubles. They actually aren't in bad shape. They have $16 million in cap room before making the decision on Peyton Manning. They have $61 million in cap room tied up with Manning, Dwight Freeney, Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett and Antoine Bethea. Aaron in Macomb, Mich., the Lions have $48 million of their cap tied up with Calvin Johnson, Matthew Stafford and Ndamukong Suh, so they can restructure contracts to get additional cap room. Dillon in Worchester, Mass., one of the main reasons Tom Brady struggled with the deep pass in the playoffs is the Patriots' lack of speed at receiver. That's something that must be addressed this offseason. Vincent in Orchard Park, N.Y., wants to know if the Bills will re-sign Steve Johnson. I think they will. The Bills know he will be cheaper than Vincent Jackson, who could get $11 million or $12 million a year. Paul in North Carolina wonders if there is any chance the Giants re-sign Mario Manningham. I think it will be hard. He's their third-best receiver, and he can get No. 2 money by moving to another team. Ken in Houston thinks Pierre Garcon would be a good option for the Houston Texans. I think the Colts will re-sign Garcon.
Steven in Lakeville, Minn.
A: Nicks would be a great addition, but he's going to cost more than $8 million a year. Because the 49ers have a young group of offensive linemen, they will have trouble re-signing the rest of their starting offensive line once their contracts expire. Plus, they have to use dollars to re-sign Carlos Rogers, Smith and others.
Q: If the Packers release or let some players become free agents, that will not create salary-cap space this year. Players who should not be on the team at all, and particularly as starters, are: A.J. Hawk, Ryan Grant, Charlie Peprah and Tramon Williams. Is there a way for the Packers to create a lot of cap space this year?
James in Altamonte Springs, Fla.
A: Grant is a free agent, so there are no cap savings there. The Packers have $11 million in cap room and only eight unsigned free agents. They really don't need to open up a lot of cap room. They could cut Donald Driver. Williams and Hawk received big contract extensions in the past two years and are valuable to the defense. Cutting Peprah would save $1.25 million. The Packers don't need a lot of cap room because they don't like to go into the free-agency market. They try to do their shopping in the draft.
Q: Has the NFL ever considered playing the Super Bowl on Saturday instead of Sunday? It seems like the ratings would be fine with the game being played in prime time on Saturday, and maybe everyone on the East Coast could actually enjoy the entire game without having to pay the price on Monday morning. The teams already have two weeks to prepare, so cutting the wait by one day shouldn't matter. I think everyone could get used to "Super Bowl Saturday."
Jeff in Orange, Calif.
A: That will never happen. The Super Bowl on a Sunday has become a holiday. It is the most-watched television show. The build-up works. The Sunday night television audience is always bigger than Saturday night. Nothing is broken, so there is no need to fix it.
Q: I am a longtime Niners fan and feel that the team needs an upgrade at WR to go along with Michael Crabtree, who is a good receiver but lacks great downfield speed. What would you see as the team's best option for an upgrade in this area?
Rick in Watonville, Calif.
A: They do need some help at wide receiver, but I don't see them paying for a No. 1 receiver. Crabtree was drafted to be a No. 1 receiver, but his game must get better. They can look for free agents in the $4 million to $5 million a year range instead of paying big dollars. They have a great tight end in Vernon Davis. A complementary receiver would be a good addition, either in the draft or in free agency, but I don't think they have to go crazy in spending to get one.
Q: I'm a huge Ravens fan and every year they get closer and closer to the Super Bowl but never get there due to the No. 3 receiver. Do you think bringing in Randy Moss or Terrell Owens as a No. 3 would be a good fit for Baltimore?
John in Delaware
A: No to T.O., but I would give Moss some consideration if he shows he has some speed. They need an outside threat with speed. Sure, I know Torrey Smith has great speed, but he doesn't get open consistently. Moss would be great in the red zone on fade routes. He'd help Joe Flacco with some jumping catches. I don't think he'd be a problem in the locker room. The key is accepting him as a No. 3 receiver, not a No. 2.
Q: Will the Cowboys be willing to bid for Mario Williams?
Mike in Atlantic City, N.J.
A: The Cowboys would be better served keeping Anthony Spencer because he's going to come in at half the price of Williams. I'm still not sold Williams fits well in a 3-4. Sure, he had five sacks in five games before getting hurt, but his best value is putting his hand on the ground in a 4-3 and rushing the quarterback. He's a Julius Peppers-type defensive end. The Cowboys paying him $15 million a year would be too much, in my opinion.
John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com. Follow Clayton on Twitter @ClaytonESPN
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