Peyton Manning will be wearing No. 18 for another team for the first time in his professional career after being released by the Indianapolis Colts.
In a press conference today, team owner Jim Irsay and Manning addressed the media to announce the decision. The two spoke together on camera, in an emotional atmosphere that had Irsay wiping his eyes by the end.
Manning, one of the top quarterbacks in the league when healthy, sat out last season due to a neck injury. The team was dramatically worse than previous seasons, finishing with a 2-14 record and earning the first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft.
Jim Irsay cited a “rebuilding team and salary cap problems” as factors for the decision to release Manning.
Manning was due to receive $28 million and four more years on his contract if he was not able to restructure his contract with the Indianapolis Colts. The luxury of the first pick in the draft gives the Colts the opportunity to draft promising quarterback Andrew Luck or Heisman Trophy award winner Robert Griffin III.
Manning leaves the team after months of speculation regarding his health, contract issues and how he might fit in with a team that looked to rebuild after dismissing head coach Jim Caldwell, general manager Chris Polian and vice chairman Bill Polian, Chris’ father.
Fans will have to adjust to seeing Manning in something other than the blue-and-white of the Colts. Manning and the Colts have been synonymous since he was drafted with the first pick in the 1997 draft.
Manning under center, barking out audibles, pointing out blitzing defensive players and making accurate throws from the pocket have been very staples of the NFL for the past decade-plus.
Manning also set numerous NFL records, including a then league-high 49 touchdowns in 2004. He also holds many franchise records, including most completions (450), passing yardage (4,700), and completion percentage (68.8%). He also helped lead the team to a Super Bowl title in 2007, where he was named game MVP.
Teams that are rumored to be in the race for Manning include Seattle, Miami, San Francisco, Washington, as well as Baltimore and Arizona. He has mentioned to associates that he would like to play outside of the NFC East so that he would not have to compete against his brother Eli, a quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champion N.Y. Giants.