Peyton Manning and the franchise tag
The face of the NFL right now is Peyton Manning. I'm sure a few people would argue that it's Tom Brady, maybe Ray Lewis. But the vast majority of us would agree, it's Peyton. He's not just a successful and prolific passer, he's in more commercials than Ronald McDonald. A great competitor and student of the game, but with a sense of humor and an 'aw shucks' southern drawl. He's the secret love child of Dan Marino and Aunt Bea.
Manning's contract expired at the end of last year. The Colts slapped the franchise tag on him, but what happens if that tag goes away? More importantly, does the fact that Manning would be an unrestricted free agent hurt the player's chances of doing away with the franchise/transition tag?
The franchise tag predates Peyton, but he is exactly who they had in mind when it was created. A player like Peyton needs to spend his entire career with one team (or at least the productive part, he can play his final year in San Diego), it isn't just good for the Colts, it's good for the league. I'm not saying the owners would hold up the entire CBA because of one player, but with this rule applying right now to such a high profile player, the franchise tag becomes a little more concrete and less of an esoteric concept. Would the owners take the 'all for one' approach and assume that what's good for the Colts is good for the NFL? Or would some owners be more likely to let the franchise tag go away if it meant a shot at landing one of the top QBs in football history?
We all know that the franchise tag isn't going anywhere. It means more to the owners than it does to the players. A small percentage of players ever have to worry about it, but I believe every team has used it at least once. But, just for fun, let's say it does go away. The CBA is settled tomorrow and Peyton Manning is suddenly an unrestricted free agent. Where does he go?
Colts would have to be the odds on favorites. He's happy there, it's his team. They love him there, their entire system is built around him. If Peyton goes away, they start from scratch. But Peyton on the open market, what would the opening bid be? $25M/year? $40? $50? Other teams have more money, both real money and cap money. What if they just can't match the offers?
Cowboys They already have a QB who has been to pro bowls and they will be more than happy to go into the season with Tony Romo. But Jerry Jones does like his shiny new toys and Peyton would be the shiniest toy in NFL free agent history.
Titans Peyton is legend in Tennessee. Plus, by taking away your division rival's QB, you've helped your defense as much as your offense, at least for 2 games.
Dolphins Would Peyton take his talents to South Beach? The Dolphins have been looking for a QB since Marino got run out of town by the Jaguars, and they aren't afraid to spend money.
Giants Peyton signing a 7-year, $300M contract to backup his brother would be the feel good story of the year, but probably wouldn't make a lot of sense.
Redskins Daniel Snyder likes his toys even more than Jerry Jones. But I just can't see Peyton subjecting himself to that, no matter how many much money they threw at him.
Bengals No explanation required.