The Indianapolis Colts are expected to announce today that they will cut Peyton Manning after 14 years of service, four MVP awards, and a Super Bowl trophy in 2007. A press conference has been scheduled for noon on Wednesday and Manning is expected to be in attendance to discuss his departure with the media.
Manning started every single Colts game (227 straight) since being drafted in 1998, until he missed all of the 2011 season after multiple offseason neck surgeries. The Colts went 2-14 in his absence, which both underscored his immense value to the team's offense and also made him expendable as Indy now has the No. 1 pick in this April's draft. With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck available (who some compare favorably with a younger Manning) and with Manning owed a $28 million bonus payment if he stayed with the team past this weekend, Colts owner Jim Irsay has decided to let Manning go and begin rebuilding the franchise.
That means one of the most prolific passers in the history of the NFL will now be an unrestricted free agent just weeks before turing 36. Despite lingering questions about his health, there is expected to be a heated (and lucrative) battle for his services in 2012. Manning had hoped to remain a Colt for life, but now becomes the latest reminder — like Joe Montana, Jerry Rice, and dozens of other Hall of Fame players before him — that even the greatest players rarely leave on their own terms.