Peyton Manning wants to return to the NFL in 2015 and the Denver Broncos appear to want him back. But, as is usually the case, money could be a real issue.
Manning is about to turn 39 and did not have a strong finish to the season. Definitely more whimper than bang in the latter portion of the year. The Broncos have roughly 30% of their roster hitting unrestricted free agency and need every dollar they can scrounge up to keep their team together. That might be a bit difficult at Manning's current salary.
"That Manning wants to play football in 2015 isn't the real question," Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post wrote. "The issue is how often he will play like a $19 million quarterback. Of course the Broncos want him back, but wouldn't it be wise for Elway to ask Manning to play at a discounted price? Get inside the numbers and a smart football man would conclude it's unlikely Manning can consistently play at an elite level. A pay cut of $5 million or so could help shore up a shaky offensive line, which might be money well spent by a 39-year-old quarterback."
Manning threw just three touchdowns against six interceptions in his last four regular season games last season before posting a total quarterback rating of 27.9 against the Indianapolis Colts in the postseason. Chalk that up to injuries; chalk it up to a changing offensive gameplan. Say whatever you want about those numbers, but there is one indisputable truth about them: they are decidedly un-Manning-like.
Kiszla is right to ask how often Manning can perform at the level we expect of him at this stage in his career. In turn, it's fair of the Broncos to try and free up some additional financial wiggle room by cutting back on Manning's contract.
He can still be a very good quarterback. But can he be Peyton Manning for a full season and do the Broncos want to pay top dollar to find out?