(2 of 2) PREVIOUS 1 | 2
4) On the future of Peyton Manning. This, like the futures of Polian and Caldwell, is one of those issues that's fine to talk about in January, but the reality is just as Polian and Caldwell are going nowhere, neither is Manning. He played the last year of his contract last season, but there's zero possibility of him going elsewhere. Irsay said this week he believes Manning's new deal will get done quietly, and that's likely what will happen. Because of the labor uncertainty, there won't likely be many signings around the NFL between now and March 3, but Irsay seems determined to get something done with Manning quickly. The guess here is Manning's deal is a unique enough and important enough contract for Irsay and the Colts to get that done. But as far as all of the blogosphere chatter about Manning going elsewhere or trying to get out of his deal or forcing change? Forget it. Manning will be with the Colts next season, and it likely will happen without any major shakeups. This is a status quo organization that has won consistently by not trying to implement drastic change. There's little reason to think that will change now.
3) Free agency. Different topic, same concept. As is the case at the beginning of each off-season, there is clamoring from observers for major free-agent signings. One school of thought is that it is so painfully obvious that the team must “fill holes” that this will be the year the team breaks form and starts signing free agents. Don't bet the mortgage. This team has been consistent because it hasn't crippled its salary cap with fantasy-football free agency, and that – along with Manning's presence – has made it yearly contender. Yes, the offensive line almost certainly will be addressed in some capacity, and there will be other areas addressed, but as much as it may infuriate some fans, this is not going to be a big-name, fill-the-depth-chart-with-sexy-names in-March team. Nor should it be. The chance of failure taking that route is far greater than the chance of success.
2) On the future of running back Joseph Addai. This is a far more uncertain situation than that of Manning, because while there's no question Manning will return, the same isn't true of Addai. The Colts need him back, and almost certainly will try very hard to keep him. Theoretically, that would be easier if Manning has a long-term contract, because that would allow the Colts to place the franchise tag on Addai. The truth is there's so much unknown that it's difficult to speculate on free agents beyond Manning. Stay tuned, but the guess here is somehow, someway the Colts figure a way to retain Addai for at least another season.
1) The window. The Colts hadn't won fewer than 12 games since 2002, and because that happened this season, the off-season certainly will be filled with stories about the window of opportunity closing. The IFR Editor can recall vividly talking to former Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy about that window more than once about that topic – and doing so more than once before 2005. That means the Colts have made at least five post-season and two Super Bowl appearances since then. Dungy never believed in the theory of the closing window, and the reality is in the NFL, the window stays open so long as your quarterback can play. Is Manning closer to the end of his career than the beginning? Sure, but as long as he is playing at the level at which he played this season – and as long as the Colts can stay healthy – they'll enter each season with a chance to get in the playoffs and make a run, and in the NFL, that's all you can ask.