In the event that the NFL and the NFL Players Association come to an agreement and avoid a work stoppage, the Indianapolis Colts are looking to make Peyton Manning the highest-paid NFL player of all-time by the time he takes the field in 2011.
The Colts placed the franchise tag on Manning Tuesday, meaning he will make 120% of his last yearly in 2011. The franchise tag usually means a player will receive a salary that is an average of the top five salaries at that position in the league, but Manning was already in that category. His salary for the upcoming season should be over $23 million.
The tag also means the Colts have exclusive negotiating rights with Manning, so his presence on the team in 2011 is guaranteed, barring an unforseeable trade
Colts owner Jim Irsay has said he wants to make Manning the highest-paid NFL player ever, and the current benchmark for yearly salary is that of Tom Brady who signed a four-year, $72 million contract before last season.
However, this deal will be for naught if the NFL has a lockout and the upcoming season is affected. Furthermore, the upcoming Collective Bargaining Agreement might not include the franchise tag (considered by some, lightly or not, the sports equivalent of indentured servitude, and certainly against the grain of the free market), so the Colts would have to sign Manning to a new deal before the CBA expires on March 1 to guarantee Manning remains a Colt.
The NFL Lockout is expected to happen, and no one knows how long it will last or what its ramifications will be. But if players of Manning's caliber (granted there aren't many players of Manning's caliber) get onto the free agent market, the landscape of the NFL could change forever. That would rival the proposed 18-game schedule as the biggest story of the proceedings.