How Colts spent Manning money

Examining Indy's rebuild, how it's leveraged financial gains from Peyton's exit

Updated: October 17, 2013, 6:05 PM ET
By Mike Sando and Matt Williamson | ESPN Insider

Peyton Manning, Jim IrsayAl Pereira/Getty ImagesHave Jim Irsay and the Colts maximized the financial benefits from Peyton Manning's departure?

Any sound NFL team-building strategy must take into account a range of circumstances. Building a roster while paying a quarterback $20 million per year, for example, requires some personnel tradeoffs. It's no surprise that some of the deeper teams in the NFL, such as San Francisco and Seattle, pay their QBs very little, at least for the time being. Plus, changes implemented through the 2011 collective bargaining agreement brought into play another set of considerations.

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay did not mention these factors when suggesting his team would seek to build a more well-rounded roster after transitioning from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck at quarterback. Doing so is much more realistic with Luck earning a small fraction of what Manning commanded based on the rookie wage scale. The more compelling question is whether the Colts have done a good job utilizing resources that became available once Manning's salary was off the books.

ESPN's Mike Sando and Matt Williamson take a closer look.

Sando: First off, the Colts cleared a relatively modest $6.6 million in 2012 salary-cap space when they released Manning. That isn't a franchise-altering amount by itself. But Manning would have counted another $18 million against the cap this year. Luck is counting about $5 million. The savings are significant. We cannot know which current Colts the team signed using money previously earmarked for Manning. That is not how things work in the NFL. Teams find ways to sign the players they really want.

Williamson: That is true within reason. But the Colts have been aggressive from a personnel standpoint since cutting Manning, so it's hard to say his departure didn't have some personnel ripples that helped this team get better elsewhere. There's a lot to sift through.