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Eli Manning reportedly wants to be “highest-paid” player in the game

New York Giants v Cincinnati Bengals

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With Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, and Philip Rivers each getting new deals with one year left on their prior ones, there’s one big-name quarterback entering his contract year.

No, not Sam Bradford.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning has one year remaining on his second NFL contract. The Giants want to extend the deal before the start of the regular season. Manning reportedly wants to be the highest-paid player in the league.

That’s the word from Ian Rapoport of NFL Media, and it’s not surprising. Here’s why.

More important than Manning’s base salary of $17 million in 2016 is his cap number of $19.75 million.

So if the Giants use the franchise tag on Manning in 2016, he’ll make 20 percent more than $19.75 million. Which (abacus engaged) equates to $23.7 million. Which is $1.7 million more than the current high-water mark of $22 million per year, set by Aaron Rodgers in 2013.

And that’s assuming the Giants simply use the non-exclusive version of the franchise tag. If they go exclusive, the number for 2016 will be closer to $25 million.

So why wouldn’t Eli want more than $22 million on a long-term deal? While it can be spun by the team that he’s looking to be the “highest-paid player in the league,” the truth is that Eli is simply trying to take fair advantage of the leverage his current deal creates.

That leverage consists of another 20-percent raise in 2017, when his franchise tender would be $28.44 million under the non-exclusive tag and roughly $30 million under the exclusive tag. That’s a $50.44 million minimum and a $55 million maximum over two years.

So why should Manning do a long-term deal that pays less than $50 million over the first two years?

If that $25 million per year annual average makes him the highest-paid player in the NFL, so be it. It’s not Manning’s fault that no one else has managed to exceed the $25 million barrier.

Besides, what alternative do the Giants have? They can pay Manning based on what the tag would give him in 2016 and 2017 -- or they can roll the dice on trying to find another competent quarterback in a league without enough of them.

In other words, they can continue with Manning, or they can return to the revolving door that churned out the likes of Kerry Collins, Jesse Palmer, Kent Graham, Danny Kanell, and Dave Brown in the decade between Simms/Hostetler and Eli.