The only reason I could surmise why Manning would move the option date back is to allow the Colts to receive some compensation for his services and trade him. However, Irsay has said he will not trade Manning, and being traded is certainly not in Manning’s best interests. He can become free to sign with any team in the NFL, rather than be limited to negotiating with one team through a trade.
From the Colts' perspective, they would certainly like to have the benefit of time to monitor the situation longer. But they are not the party in this negotiation with leverage.
Reading between the lines from interviews, tweets and perhaps conversations with confidante Rob Lowe, my sense is that what Irsay truly wants is for Manning to retire. Since he does not want to cut or trade Peyton Manning, that leaves two options: (1) going forward with the financial and organizational commitment to a player that has been the past and may be the present, but probably not the future, or (2) hoping Manning will retire, certainly with some continuing role on the team.
The problem for Irsay is that Manning – despite no immediate assurances from the medical side – wants to play.
What I would do
As hard as it is to part with the face of the franchise, I would move on.
The confluence of three factors – (1) a massive financial commitment required -- $35.4 million in 2012 alone, (2) an uncertain neck condition involving regeneration of nerves (this is not a shoulder or knee injury), and (3) a special player in Luck, available for half the price at the same position – all conspire towards a parting of ways.
Like the Packers and Brett Favre, the Colts would prefer a nice, easy retirement from their longtime superstar, with a non-playing role with the team to come. Sometimes, however, the script does not have a clean and tidy ending.
And like the Favre-Packers situation four years ago, there is a growing sense that change is in the air. Favre was not feeling any warmth or courtship from the front office that he had felt in prior years. The same appears true with Manning, and public relations spinning has begun. Things could get a bit messy; emotions will run high.
My sense is -- with a new general manager, a new coach and potentially a new quarterback, we are seeing an end of an era in Indianapolis. The inexorable march of time and turnover of players in the NFL continues, even at the highest levels. Even the best of NFL careers -- which Manning's certainly has been and may continue to be -- rarely end well.
March 8th beckons, with the eyes of the football world upon it.
Follow me on Twitter at adbrandt.
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