By Nate Davis, USA TODAY
Jim Irsay now says he wants QB Peyton Manning back at the right price.
But does he really?
In the latest offseason volley between the Colts owner and his four-time MVP, Irsay told The Indianapolis Star on Valentine's Day:
"We can make it work if he wants to be here.
"We'd be excited to have him back and finish his career with us.
"I want him to be able to make the choice. We would love to have him back here if he can get healthy and we can look at doing a contract that reflects the uncertainty of the ... healing process with the regeneration of the nerve."
After a sometimes biting discourse between the camps during Super Bowl week in Indianapolis, some believe Irsay is now trying to pander to public opinion by giving the city's greatest sports hero an option to remain in town. He plans to meet with Manning over the next week.
"This screams of a P.R. battle. Listen, the bridge has been burned between these two gentlemen in my opinion," said NFL Network analyst Heath Evans on NFL Total Access on Tuesday night. "The pessimistic 10-year veteran in me sees the business side of this. Irsay remembers or probably has now kind of found out ... that he has now scarred and shamed the man that built him that stadium, the man that brought him a championship.
"We're never gonna know what the terms are that they lay down on the line for Peyton Manning. They might be as extreme as to say, 'Hey, we're gonna give you $5 million,' when he's worth $20 (million).
"This has been handled just horrifically. When you talk about a guy that's done it with class, done it with character and dignity for so long and has really given that franchise breath and life, and the business now that it is -- no longer a basketball city but a football city -- it's atrocious to me."
NFL Network reporter Albert Breer opined that the public nature of Irsay's latest comments might actually be counterproductive when it comes to keeping Manning, who's owed a $28 million option bonus next month. If Irsay doesn't pay it, the quarterback would go free.
"The fact of the matter is, is that if these were genuine offers, then they would be being made privately," said Breer. "The question now becomes, can (the Colts) fix some of the problems that have been out there. At this point, I think that this exacerbates the problem more than anything else."
The Colts recently hired HC Chuck Pagano and GM Ryan Grigson, plan to draft a new quarterback (likely Stanford's Andrew Luck) in April and seem ready to completely overhaul a veteran-laden roster. Given those circumstances, Breer cited a conversation he had with Manning's agent, Tom Condon prior to the Super Bowl.
"It looks to me like this is one (team) where you wouldn't want a 36-year-old quarterback as part of the mix," Breer said he asked. "And Condon simply responded to me, 'That sounds like pretty good logic.' "
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