It was easy to tell watching the Super Bowl this year that the Denver Broncos are far from a flawless team. They have a lot of areas of their team that need to be upgraded in order to compete with the more balanced teams from across the league, which is why Peyton Manning’s large contract is causing them headaches going into free agency and the draft. In terms of just how much Manning is actually worth to a team, it could be said that he is almost underpaid, but paying him what he deserves makes it a lot harder for the Broncos to bring in players who also want top dollar as well as to make the numbers work into the salary cap.
Yesterday Peyton Manning passed a physical that showed he is ready to play in the upcoming 2014 season. Passing this physical also meant Manning met a benchmark in his contract that earned him 20 million dollars – not that he needs the money. This is the point in the NFL offseason when many veterans with big contracts are asked to restructure those deals in order to help their team get under the salary cap. Most of the time this means that the player will get more of his money in the lump sum of a signing bonus rather than just in his base salary as was usually written in the original contract. Soon the Broncos will have to make a decision as to whether or not they need to do this with Manning.
While restructuring Manning’s deal would help the Broncos free up some cap money this coming season, it would only make his salary cap number even larger in the future. In 2014, Manning has a base salary of $15 million and a salary cap number of $17.5 million, but if the Broncos wanted to restructure that they could pay $14 million of his $15 million in a signing bonus and his salary cap number would go down to between eight and nine million dollars. The problem with that course of action is it would mean his salary cap number for the last two years of the five-year contract he signed would go up dramatically. Right now his cap number for his final two years in Denver is $21.5 million for each year. If they were to restructure for the short-term gain, in this season his cap number for the following two seasons would be $26 million. That would create even more headaches for them in those years, as they will also have to think about long-term extensions for young stars like linebacker Von Miller and receiver Demaryius Thomas.
Manning is coming off the most impressive statistical season by any quarterback in NFL history which gives about as much leverage one can possibly have contractually. He does not seem the type to turn down something that would help the team for selfish reasons, so it is unlikely that he would say no to restructuring the deal. With that being said, Manning has also never taken less money in a deal like Tom Brady did during the 2013 offseason. Either way, the Broncos are a much worse team without him and they know it, so they will just have to work with his contract and see what they can do.
No matter what the final outcome, it is without a doubt that Peyton Manning will be in a Denver uniform next season. The only question is whether they can get more cap space to go after some top defensive free agents. Even though Manning’s contract is causing the Broncos headaches, it will all be worked out by next season and Peyton will be sure to have them near the top of the AFC once again.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Pro Football Talk
Pro Football Talk