At the end of July, the Indianapolis Colts signed QB Peyton Manning to a massive 5 year, $90 million contract that pays him $69 million in the first 3 years.
Last week, Manning had his 3rd neck surgery in 19 months putting his season in doubt. Manning is 35 years old.
If NFL history is any indicator, Manning has another three or four years left. As quarterbacks hit their late 30s, they generally don't meet with success. Their physical abilities diminish, mental acuity depreciates and the constant physical punishment quarterbacks endure takes its toll. This, of course, is not breaking news.
There are few quarterbacks that have won a playoff game after the age of 39. Brett Favre did it for the Vikings in 2009. Before Favre, the only other quarterback to win a playoff game since 1983 was Phill Simms, who did it in 1993.
Seventeen quarterbacks have played at the age of 40, including Doug Flutie (43), Sonny Jurgensen (40), Vinny Testaverde (44), Warren Moon (44) and Favre (41).
So it's not unreasonable to conclude that Manning's best years are behind him and that he won't play to the age of 40. Of course, Manning is different than your average quarterback - or above average QB for that matter. He is extremely bright, always prepared and lives and breaths the game. If anyone can be effective past 40, it's Manning.
Still, the Colts must begin to look to the future (Andrew Luck anyone?). That's where Manning's contract structure becomes relevant.
The Colts have the option of cutting Manning (cue the gasp). Manning will make $26.4 million this year - whether he plays or not. The Colts, though, have the option of cutting Manning next season by the 4th day of the season, and if they do so they will owe him nothing on what's left on his $90 million contract.
That's right - there is no guaranteed money beyond this first year.
With Manning's future in doubt, you have to bet the Colts are looking at their options.
Still, the Colts cutting Manning would be like the Vatican cutting the Pope.
Tough to see. On the table though. It has to - football is a business. And for the record, this wouldn't be the first time the Pope has been cut.