Colts give Manning franchise tag

Posted: Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Unable to reach a long-term deal with Peyton Manning, the Indianapolis Colts designated the NFL's co-MVP their franchise player Monday.

The deal guarantees Manning $18.4 million next season if he remains Indianapolis' franchise player. The Colts hope their quarterback settles for a more salary-cap friendly deal that allows them to sign the defensive players they badly need.

San Francisco and New Orleans also designated franchise players Monday, the day before the deadline for teams to apply that tag to protect them from free agency, which begins March 3. The 49ers tagged All-Pro linebacker Julian Peterson and the Saints gave it to defensive end Darren Howard.

The 49ers' action means wide receiver Terrell Owens will likely be elsewhere next season because he didn't get the franchise designation. The four-time Pro Bowler now can void his contract.

Two of the NFL's top cornerbacks, Charles Woodson of Oakland and Champ Bailey of Washington, also have the franchise designation, guaranteeing they will be paid the average of the five top players at their positions next season.

However, their circumstances are different.

While the Raiders would like to keep Woodson, the Redskins are actively marketing Bailey.

On Monday, there were indications he could be dealt to Denver for running back Clinton Portis in a rare player-for-player trade. A source, who requested anonymity, said the Broncos also would get Washington's second-round pick.

Jack Reale, Bailey's agent, said the Redskins have talked with several other teams, including Detroit, the New York Jets, Houston, Chicago and Arizona.

''We have had preliminary discussions with the Broncos and with other teams as well, just on the broad outlines of a contract,'' Reale said. ''I can't go into detail until I know what team we're going to be dealing with.''

Portis, who rushed for 1,591 yards last season, is unhappy with a deal that will pay him just $300,000 next year. The third-year pro would fit the needs of new coach Joe Gibbs' offense, which relies on a workhorse running back.

Green Bay is discussing a contract that could net left tackle Chad Clifton the highest bonus in team history. Clifton could receive more than the $12 million quarterback Brett Favre got in 1997.

If no agreement comes by Tuesday's 3 p.m. deadline, the Packers are expected to place their franchise tag on Clifton, a premier pass-blocker.

As for Manning, his situation is unusual for a star quarterback, most of whom are signed to long-term extensions before they are due to become free agents.

However, the Colts never really got into serious talks with Manning and agent Tom Condon until recently. Manning remained on the six-year deal he signed as the first overall pick in the 1998 draft.

Even with a new contract for Manning, the Colts will have to make cap cuts. Offensive lineman Adam Meadows already has been given permission to explore a new deal and defensive end Chad Bratzke is a likely casualty.

There could be more if the Colts are stuck with Manning's $18.4 million one-year deal more than 22 percent of the $80.5 million salary cap for next season.

''There will be significant revisions if we can't get something done,'' general manager Bill Polian said. ''I don't know that I'd call it a complete setback. We're prepared for it.''

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