On early Peyton Manning contract talk

The Colts have made an initial contract pitch to Peyton Manning and want to lock him up long term before March 3 turns into March 4, when a lockout is likely.

Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter do a nice job here talking us through what it all means.

The two points I find most interesting:

1) “Sources say team president Bill Polian presented a pitch Thursday that the Colts want more cash flow to build the talent around Manning with a more aggressive offseason that could include a few key free-agent signings.”

This doesn’t mean the Colts will be pursuing a trio of top-flight free agents. But if they can be players in the bidding for a top-flight offensive tackle and are in the mix for a corner or receiver, that would still be a sea change in their operation. Ideally, free agency still comes before the draft. If so, Polian could add to his roster in a way that would ease any pressure on the draft and allow him to do what he does best -- take the best players available while not being overly concerned about need.

It’s not as simple as Manning taking less to allow the Colts to give him a better supporting cast. Creatively, the Colts need to give him what he’s worth and venture out into free agency. “More cash flow” now reads to me like “more deferred money” for Manning. I’d hope he’ll be flexible there.

2) “If they fail to strike a deal in the next two-plus weeks, the Colts are preparing to slap their franchise tag on Manning, even if there is a question about whether it would hold up without a collective bargaining agreement.”

I’ve gotten a lot of question about the Titans being in position to pursue Manning. Even if that franchise tag doesn’t hold up -- the league and players association don’t know if it carries over with no agreement in place or not -- Manning would be a frozen free agent just like everyone else during a lockout.

Once there is a CBA, if Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, had anything more than a polite conversation with teams that called to inquire, I’d be surprised.

Manning has plenty of leverage here, but I am hardly alone in believing there isn’t a chance his next contract isn’t with the Colts.