Jim Irsay won’t let Peyton Manning walk away from the Colts next season — no matter the cost.
Indy’s owner reiterated yesterday that he intends to make Manning the NFL’s highest-paid player even if it takes the prohibitive franchise tag to keep the only four-time MVP in league history in blue and white.
“The bottom line is we’ll get something done and when it happens just depends,’’ Irsay said during the Colts’ first training camp practice. “I said he’d be the highest-paid player and he may already be if we go with the tag. I’d love to see him be here and break all those records as a Colt.’’
Irsay has never been shy about paying top dollar for his best players.
Manning, 34, signed his current deal worth $98 million in 2004. Seven other Colts — receiver Reggie Wayne, tight end Dallas Clark, defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, cornerback Kelvin Hayden, and safeties Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea — have deals worth $27 million or more.
Irsay said Manning’s agent, Tom Condon, and team president Bill Polian have discussed a contract extension, but the biggest obstacle so far has been the lack of a collective bargaining agreement.
“It’s not going to be easy because there’s probably going to be something that goes back and captures something from the uncapped year,’’ Irsay said, referring to how this year’s deals could affect future salary cap space.
Irsay’s hopes hit another potential pothole this week when No. 1 draft pick Sam Bradford signed a six-year, $78 million contract with St. Louis that includes a record $50 million in guaranteed money. Manning received a then-record $34.5 million signing bonus in 2004 after winning his second MVP Award. Bradford hasn’t taken an NFL snap yet.
“It’s hard to believe,’’ Irsay said.
General manager Buddy Nix said the Bills are moving on without their leading pass rusher, ruling out any chance Schobel will be a member of the team this season. Schobel has not attended training camp as he tries to figure out whether to play for Buffalo or retire, so the Bills made the choice easier for him.
“We’re trying to get ready to play in 2010, and we think this is what we needed to do,’’ Nix said. “There comes a point where we have to move forward and that point is today.’’
Schobel has four years left on a $50.5 million contract extension he signed in 2007, and will remain on the team’s Reserve/Did Not Report List. Schobel said from his home outside of Houston that the Bills told him they would release him if he decided to come back at this point.
Schobel, who has spent his entire nine-year career with the Bills, recognized he put the Bills in a tough spot.
“I understand it. I would’ve done the same thing if I was in their shoes,’’ Schobel said.