Peyton Manning has unquestionably been the most dominant quarterback in the NFL since signing a five-year, $96 million contract with the Denver Broncos in 2012.
After contemplating retirement, Manning insists that he is mentally and physically prepared for another run with Denver in 2015. Throughout the whole process, the Broncos have maintained that they want Manning to lead them this upcoming season.
Despite both sides seemingly wanting the same thing on the surface, nothing has been set in stone. This is due to the Broncos desire to have Manning restructure his contract.
Manning play has matched his pay-grade, perhaps performing at a higher level than any quarterback ever has in his three-year stint with Denver. There is no arguing with a 131:36 TD-INT ratio, to go along with 14,863 passing yards in three seasons.
Many argue that teams should honor the contracts that players are signed to, and that asking an all-time great who’s playing at a high level to take a pay-cut is disrespectful.
However, I would characterize Manning’s tenure as a failure, so far at least. He didn’t come to Denver in 2012 to eat up cap room for a few years and retire; he came to Denver to win a championship.
Three years in, that has failed to happen. In 2012, Denver was a favorite to win the big game, until they fell to Baltimore in the playoffs. The Broncos looked poised to win the Super Bowl in 2013, until they were flat-out dominated by Seattle. In 2014, Manning was inconsistent down the stretch, as a result of a quad injury. The Broncos fell to Indianapolis in the Divisional round, with Manning at the center of the blame.
So, what’s next?
General Manager, John Elway, has been aggressive in free agency since Manning’s arrival, sporting a win-now mentality. With Julius Thomas likely heading out the door, the Broncos still have places they can improve their roster. Finding a replacement at tight end, while patching up an inconsistent offensive line would be greatly beneficial to their 38-year-old quarterback.
Manning taking a pay-cut isn’t about pride, it is about legacy. 17 years into his career, Manning still has the label of a quarterback who cannot get it done in the post-season, and the numbers back that sentiment up. A few million dollars chipped off of his contract could be a few million dollars spent on winning a Super Bowl.
Manning has long been labeled as a team player, a true leader, and an individual who will do anything to help his team win. Now is the time for him to show it. After all, a Super Bowl win could elevate his status as “the greatest regular season quarterback of all-time” to the greatest quarterback of all-time.