INDIANAPOLIS — Jim Irsay insists Peyton Manning will be the NFL's highest-paid player next season.
He'll just have to wait until after this season to close the deal.
The Colts owner said Monday he was prepared to make a contract offer to Manning during the team's off week, but Manning and his agent wanted to wait until after the season.
"Any negotiation is a two-way street and we were ready to roll and we had a proposal, but they wanted to wait," Irsay said. "That's OK because every player is different. We had a bye week, and we thought we could have gotten (negotiations) rolling."
Irsay did not divulge details of the proposal that he hopes will keep Manning in blue-and-white for the rest of his career. Manning's current deal expires after the season.
The comments came hours before Manning was to make his 199th consecutive start for the Colts. Indy (4-2) faces Houston (4-2) in the first Monday night game at Lucas Oil Stadium, with the winner claiming sole possession of the AFC South lead.
Irsay has made no secret about his intention to keep the record-setting quarterback in Indy, and has said he will use the hefty franchise tag to keep Manning here, if necessary. He has also repeatedly promised to give Manning, the only four-time MVP in league history, the biggest contract in league history – something he reiterated Monday.
"He is going to be the highest-paid player in the league," Irsay said Monday. "Look we love him, and we'd like to see his career end here."
The baseline for Manning's deal, Irsay said, will be the recent contract signed by Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. In September, Brady to a four-year extension worth $18 million annually and $48.5 million guaranteed.
Manning and Brady are generally regarded as the two best quarterbacks in the NFL today and are virtually mirror images in terms of their biggest honors. Brady has won three Super Bowl titles and one MVP Award, while Manning has four MVPs and one Super Bowl title.
The only real question appears to be timing.
"During the season, Peyton wants his only focus to be on preparing for football games," agent Tom Condon told The Associated Press.
Former NFL quarterback Ron Jaworski thought it was the right position to take.
"What I love is the focus on the season," said Jaworski, who is part of ESPN's Monday night broadcast team. "I think the focus on the season is great."
The biggest wrinkle in negotiations may wind up being the one thing out of both sides' control – a new collective bargaining agreement.
Colts President Bill Polian has said he would prefer to see how he could structure Manning's deal under a new CBA.
But with many expecting no new labor deal before March, and a growing consensus among league players to decertify the union in an effort to prevent a lockout, Polian and Irsay may not be able to wait that long.
And Condon doesn't believe that will slow down anything.
"It's probably not any more or any less difficult because of that," Condon said.
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