Thu, Mar 04, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Colts secure Manning for US$98 million

AP , NEW YORK

Colts quarterback Peyton Manning throws a pass in the third quarter against the Falcons in Indianapolis, Indianda on Dec. 14, 2003. Manning is now the highest paid player in NFL history.

PHOTO: REUTERS

Peyton Manning got a record new contract Tuesday, solving a salary cap problem for the Indianapolis Colts on a day most NFL teams also cleared cap room for free agency.

Except, as usual, the Washington Redskins.

The highest-profile player released Tuesday was San Francisco quarterback Jeff Garcia, who declined to accept a cut in his US$9.9 million salary for next season. That made him one of the top players on the free agent market, which opens Wednesday.

The 49ers, who will go with Tim Rattay at quarterback, also cut Pro Bowl guard Ron Stone and gave disgruntled wide receiver Terrell Owens permission to seek a trade. Owens was prevented from becoming a free agent by a paperwork gaffe by his agent last week.

"I think it's very improbable that he would be back," general manager Terry Donahue said of Owens. "Both parties have agreed to pursue a trade very actively in the next 72 hours."

The Colts, much to their relief, beat the deadline by signing last year's co-MVP to a seven-year, US$98 million deal with a US$34.5 million signing bonus, largest ever in the NFL. The deal was so complicated it took a while for the team and Manning's agent, Tom Condon, to figure out the exact size of the package.

But they did agree it saves the Colts US$10.1 million in cap space, allowing them to re-sign current players and pursue free agents.

That's because Manning's cap number, including the pro-rated signing bonus, will be US$8.3 million next season instead of the US$18.4 million it would have been had he remained the team's franchise player.

Colts owner Jim Irsay was ecstatic at what it does for his team, which lost to Super Bowl winner New England in last season's AFC title game.

"There was a lot of pressure because we're getting close to [making] the Super Bowl," Irsay said. "If you don't get it done, we're going in a dramatically different direction."

The Redskins haven't been close to the Super Bowl since Daniel Snyder bought them, five years and five coaches ago. But it hasn't kept him from spending freely.

The team already has made two deals that will be formally completed later this week. One sends four-time Pro Bowl running back Champ Bailey and a second-round draft choice to Denver for running back Clinton Portis. According to NFL historians, that's the first man-for-man trade of significant players since quarterbacks Dan Pastorini and Ken Stabler were dealt for each other in 1980.

The other trade brings quarterback Mark Brunell from Jacksonville for a third-round pick, a deal the Jaguars confirmed Tuesday.

Washington also jumped the gun by signing defensive end Philip Daniels. Normally those deals aren't done until after the deadline, but the signing was legal because Daniels was released on Monday by Chicago.

In addition to Garcia, other desirable free agents are defensive linemen Jevon Kearse of Tennessee and Warren Sapp of Tampa Bay; running back Duce Staley, linebacker Carlos Emmons and cornerbacks Troy Vincent and Bobby Taylor of Philadelphia; defensive end Grant Wistrom of St. Louis; guard Damien Woody of New England; cornerback Antoine Winfield of Buffalo; defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin of the New York Giants; tight end Jim Kleinsasser of Minnesota; and wide receiver Darrell Jackson of Seattle.

Another player who could be attractive is defensive end Marcellus Wiley, released Tuesday by San Diego. At the same time, the Chargers held on to 41-year-old quarterback Doug Flutie, restructuring his contract with a three-year extension.

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