Colts will pay Manning, but at what cost?

Colts QB Peyton Manning is expected to become the highest paid player in the NFL. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)

The Colts are going to make QB Peyton Manning the highest paid player in the game. That is inevitable. Colts owner Jim Irsay has also gone on record stating that he will take care of Manning. The price tag will likely exceed $100 million. That also is inevitable.

But at what cost?

The key for the Colts long-term success, however, is taking care of the other 19 pending free agents. Irsay told Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star that he needs to find a balance between taking care of his biggest superstar, and the long-term health of the franchise.

“We have to be wise in that we don’t corner ourselves and make sure we have room to keep some of the key guys,” Irsay said. “It’s a myth to say you can just have Peyton and you’re automatically 12-4.

“Peyton gives you such an edge . . . but we need the supporting cast if we want to do what we really want to do, and that’s win another world championship.”

The 1990s Cowboys thought they could keep Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith together and all would be good. But it could be argued that losing role players such as Jay Novacek and Charles Haley led to their downfall. The Colts obviously know this.

That puts the Colts in an unenviable position here. The team has to pay Manning. The stars from the Baltimore era are more linked with the Ravens. Manning is the lone, true Indianapolis Colt. But having to give $100 million over five years to a quarterback who will be 39 in the final year of that contract is a tough call. But do the Colts have any other choice?

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