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Colts owner says he’ll use franchise tag on Manning, if necessary

Earlier this year, Colts owner Jim Irsay acknowledged that quarterback Peyton Manning will be the highest-paid player in the league, once Manning signs his next contract.

As we pointed out at the time, the fact that Manning will top all other players in the NFL is a fairly easy observation. The harder question is by how many dollars will he surpass No. 2 on the list?

Irsay indicated on Monday that, if the two sides can’t come up with a mutually acceptable answer to the “by how much?” question, the Colts will simply use the franchise tag.

“The bottom line is we’ll get something done and when it happens just depends,” Irsay said, per the Associated Press. “I said he’d be the highest-paid player and he may already be if we go with the [franchise] tag. I’d love to see him be here and break all those records as a Colt.”

Under the current rules, using the franchise tag on Manning would require the team to offer him a one-year guaranteed salary of $18.96 million. The Colts applied the tag to Manning several years ago; they shortly thereafter negotiated his current deal.

Of course, Irsay’s intent to use the tag presumes that the tag will still exist come the launch of the next labor deal. There’s a chance that it won’t. And, if it isn’t, Manning would be available to the highest bidder.

Even if Manning stays, there’s no guarantee that he’ll “break all those records.” If Brett Favre plays for a few more years, Manning won’t even sniff those records.