The Cost of Peyton Manning
This is a topic that is gaining steam each week. Really the story started n Jets message boards where the diehard fanbase resides most of whom have written off Mark Sanchez due to the mediocre level of play, but has been picked up by the media and presented as a new idea by many hosts and writers. So can it really happen?
I’ll admit I am a little shaky and uncertain as to how the Manning contract will work if he is traded. Manning has an 28 million dollar option that is due by the 4th day of the 2012 League Year, meaning he will need to be moved before that date if the Colts intend to trade him. The issue here is that Manning’s option can actually be picked up in 2011 which means it is already being accounted for as a cap charge of $5.6 million in 2011. Normally when a player is traded all money accelerates onto the cap, but since the Colts have yet to pay Manning I do not believe that this money accelerates. More likely the Colts will receive a cap credit of $5.6 million while the acquiring team would be paying out $7 million a year in prorated cap charges. I’m guessing it is also possible that a team that acquires him before the 2011 league year ends and picks up the option will only absorb a $5.6 million per year cap charge, with $5.6 million being placed onto the 2011 salary cap.
Manning’s salaries from 2012 thru 2015 are $7.4 million, $8.4 million, $9.4 million, and $10.4 million. There are no roster bonuses, reporting bonuses, or workout bonuses in the remaining years of his deal. That makes the deal a 4 year, $63.6 million deal, an average of only $15.9 million a year. To put that in perspective its less than his brother makes, less than Michael Vick makes and less than Carson Palmers last deal. The 3 year $53.2 million total would be higher than all except Brady and Palmer. But clearly it’s a reasonable amount of money for a high level QB.
If we assume the $7 million a year bonus proration the cap charges will start at $14.4 million in 2012 and grow by 1 million each year. The large dead money charges would more or less ensure that he would be the QB until 2014 when he would be 38 years old. If its $5.6 million a year our cap charges are a very manageable $13-16 million a year with a dead money charge of $11.2 million in 2014 making it possible to just do a two year rental if the health is really bad.
Can They Do It?
Right now the Jets have one of the higher payrolls in the NFL in 2012. My estimates have them at around $119 million in cap commitments in 2012. That doesn’t include tenders to restricted free agents or escalators set to be earned by players. Dustin Keller, Kyle Wilson, and Mike DeVito are all going to receive higher salaries than listed in 2012. Those three will add between $6 and $7 million to the Jets cap in 2012. Free agents that they could re-sign are Plaxico Burress, Jim Leonhard, and Sione Pouha.
The Jets have about $8 million in additional cap room that they will carry into 2012 plus a $1.5 million adjustment that they will borrow from future years. Assuming the cap grows by 4 million that should make the Jets adjusted salary cap around $133.5 million, which means the Jets are going to have a few million to spend even without touching any current contracts and having those raises hit the cap, but that wont be enough for Manning. .
The reality is if you bring in Manning you are giving up on Sanchez. There is no option of keeping Sanchez to learn under Manning. It is simply over. The Jets will create slightly over $9 million in cap room by cutting ties with the young QB and would need to happen to bring in Manning. The Jets would save about $11 million in cap space in 2013 by cutting Sanchez in 2012. So its almost a wash between he and Manning with Manning costing between$ 3 million and $4.5 million a year more depending on how the option bonus is accounted for. So cutting Sanchez is really the only move the team needs to make to make the deal workable for cap purposes. The extra cost for Manning could cost the team someone like Keller, but he is so inconsistent he may not figure into the team plans anyway. So it is certainly doable from a cap perspective.
This is really the question you have to answer when it comes to doing the deal. The market price for QB’s is huge. A backup like Kevin Kolb is worth a second round draft pick and starting quality player. The Raiders set a new market in the trade for Carson Palmer, who has not been a top flight QB in probably 5 years. The Raiders gave up a first round draft pick in 2012 and a second round pick in 2013 which can escalate to a first if they advance to the AFC Championship game. The Raiders would have less of a financial commitment to Palmer than the Jets would have to Manning, but that is the starting point. Manning is a better player than Palmer so you are probably looking at a first, second, and third round draft pick through the next three years. The second rounder would likely escalate to a first if Manning was active for 16 games or something else easy to earn. It would essentially be an injury protection for the Jets. My guess would be a third in 2014 would escalate to a two by starting a certain amount of games and a one with very high playoff success. Three high round picks for an injured QB is pretty steep, especially when you see the Jets lack of depth in certain spots. Still in the past the Jets have traded away draft picks for far lesser players and would likely be willing to roll the dice here especially if the worst case scenario is just one first rounder.
Clearly the Jets can make the move. Clearly it will create a ton of buzz. Is it worthwhile? Debatable. Manning is coming off more than a few surgeries the last few years. He has had neck and knee problems and this neck issue seems to be extremely bad. There is no guarantee that you are getting anywhere near the level of the MVP Manning that everyone knows. It might be a version much closer to that of a $10 million/year type player especially when you are now asking him to step outside of the dome and into the cold weather of December and January in New York.
That said the Jets are not shy about trying to make a splash or spending draft picks on QB’s. Since Mike Tannenbaum officially took over it has been a never-ending search. A 2nd round pick in 2006 for Kellen Clemens. A 5th round pick in 2008 for Erik Ainge. A 1st and 2nd round pick in 2009 for Mark Sanchez. A 3rd round pick in 2009 for Brett Favre. A 7th round pick in 2011 for Kevin O’Connell and Greg McElroy. 6 years and 7 draft picks that have gone towards finding a QB. Clemens, Ainge, and Favre are all out of the NFL. O’Connell remains a third string QB for the team, a job he got because McElroy went on IR. Sanchez may soon be gone as well.
So the Jets take chances. None might be as big of a payment for Manning, though Sanchez’ might be close, but you get the idea. Clearly they are going to consider it if the Colts dangle him out there. But just remember before doing it that this is not 2009 anymore. Bart Scott is years older and much slower. They are still searching for the right mix on the defensive line as the veterans that knew Ryan from his Ravens days are now gone from the league. The Safety play is neither as good nor as feared as it was in 2009. Manning is a great player and as we are learning carried some awful Colts teams to the playoffs, but he has never exactly been a guy know to get a team over the hump and Im not sure that a team that gives up a 95 yard drive to a high school style QB with the game on the line is “the type of team Manning has been waiting for”. But the clock is clearly for Sanchez. And if not manning you can bet there will be someone else here that is brought in for the purpose of replacing him as soon as there is one mistake.