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Colts president blasts rookie compensation system

On Sunday, not many members of the Colts were talking to the media. On Monday, two key figures with the franchise had plenty to say.

For starters, owner Jim Irsay made it clear that the team will be paying quarterback Peyton Manning a lot of money. A whole lot of money.

Later in the day, president Bill Polian talked with JMV of 1070 The Fan regarding the phenomenon of teams paying a lot of money to unproven players.

“We need to change the rookie system because to have, for example, Sam Bradford paid $50 million dollars in guaranteed money for never having taken a snap in the National Football League is just wrong,” Polian told JMV, via “That money should go to veteran players who have earned it in the National Football League. That’s a very stark example, but it exists. It’s there, and it needs to be changed. And I don’t think many other people other than those such as agents who have a vested interest in the present system, would have a problem with that.”

Polian also complained that the current system forced his team to delay signing its first-round pick, defensive end Jerry Hughes, because Hughes’ agent was occupied with higher-stakes negotiations.

“Tom Condon also represented four or five other first-round players,” Polian said. “He tends to focus his attention nearer the reporting date of the teams that of which he has players and guys who are higher [in the draft]. Most notably, the St. Louis quarterback. So, by the time he gets to our player, it’s later in the process. That’s no one’s fault, except the system. And so, you just recognize that, shrug your shoulders, and hope that we can make a better system down the road.”

A better system would entail a lockstep formula that pays the players standard contracts based on draft position, with an assortment of play-time and performance-based incentives available, so that the players who become truly great won’t have to wait for their second contracts to get paid.

Of course, Polian has a very good reason to complain about the system that produced $50 million in guaranteed money for Bradford. Since Condon also represents Manning, Polian can expect to hear an argument that goes something like this: “If an unproven player with chronic shoulder problems who was hardly on the field in 2009 is worth $50 million guaranteed, Peyton Manning is worth $100 million guaranteed.”

And, frankly, Condon would be right.

So, yes, the system needs to change. Unfortunately for the Colts, however, the change is coming at least one year too late.