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Thursday, March 8 has been pegged on the calendar as "Peyton Manning Day" for quite some time. That's when the Colts must make a decision on whether or not to pick up Manning's $28 million option bonus and activate the rest of his contract. But not so fast, my friends: the Colts can actually keep Manning on the roster as late as Friday at 4 p.m. ET without paying him any money.
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That's according to a report from Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network, who writes that while Thursday is the deadline for Manning's option bonus, Sunday -- two days before the beginning of the new league year -- is the "non-exercise payment date" on Manning's contract.
However, there's one more wrinkle. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk correctly points out, and has since confirmed via NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, that NFL business must be transacted by 4 p.m. ET on Friday.
Therefore, if the Colts don't pick up Manning's option bonus on Thursday but also don't cut Manning before 4 p.m. ET on Friday, they'll owe him $28 million as a result of the non-exercise fee. However, if the Colts don't exercise his option, as Florio points out, he will still be under contract for the 2012 season until they decide to cut him.
The failure to pay the option bonus, per Florio, will simply wipe out the 2013-2015 portions of Peyton's contract. (Ed. Note: This is an update from what we previously had here.)
So what would be the point of keeping Manning past Thursday? Well, Jim Irsay could ultimately decide that he does want to pay Manning $28 million to play for the Colts -- or, more accurately, not play somewhere else -- in 2012. The Colts could would not be able, however, to cut him past Friday at 4 p.m. ET without paying him the $28 million and sending him on his way.
The Colts could also decide to wait until Friday to engage in talks with Manning on a renegotiated contract. But if no deal is reached and the Colts decide to cut Manning after the 4 p.m. ET deadline on Friday, then Manning would get $28 million for the non-exercise fee and would become a free agent.
Which is why it makes more sense, if the Colts are truly prepared to move on without Manning, to do so at an earlier time than on 3:59:59 p.m. ET on Friday.
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