After 14 years with the Indianapolis Colts, quarterback Peyton Manning will hit the free agent market after the team decided to pass on the $28 million roster bonus he was owed by Thursday and, as a result, not pick up the four years remaining on his contract, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. An official announcement will come at a news conference in Indianapolis Wednesday with both Manning and owner Jim Irsay in attendance.
Manning, who turns 36 this month, missed all of last season after having his third neck surgery in 19 months, but has been aggressive in rehabbing from his injury. Reports say that he has been medically cleared to resume his career and has greatly improved his throwing by conducting throwing sessions on the Duke University campus in helmet and pads.
Now, teams such as the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos will be aggressively working to sign the four-time MVP to a multi-year deal. Free agency begins on March 13, but Manning can sign a contract with a team as soon as he is officially released, which must be done by 4 p.m. Thursday.
Manning, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 NFL draft for the Colts, led Indianapolis to 11 postseasons and a Super Bowl victory in 2007. He signed a five-year, $90 million contract with the Colts last summer after the lockout ended and was due $7.4 million in salary in 2012 in addition to his option bonus after receiving $26.4 million from the Colts in 2011.
It can be argued that Manning presented a great risk if he was kept, both financially and medically, especially with Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck projected as the top prospect in this year's draft class. It is expected that the Colts will indeed select Luck with their No. 1 overall pick and start to rebuild after a meager 2-14 season.