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NFL Contracts: Comparing Peyton Manning and Tom Brady

The eyes of the NFL are once again on the contracts of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, but this is not the first time it's happened.

Let's flash back to 2004. Peyton Manning was just coming off his first MVP award and had led the Colts to the AFC Championship game. He was set to be a free agent, but the Colts applied the franchise tag (uh, duh), and then negotiated the biggest deal in history. Manning hauled in $99 million for the 7-year deal, including $34.5 million guaranteed. At the time, people said that he'll probably never actually see all that $99 million (just because that's the way NFL deals usually work). The other prevailing opinion was that the move would cripple the Colts toward the end of the deal and that they wouldn't be able to compete.

The next offseason, three time champion Tom Brady signed a 6-year $60 Million deal hailed as "team friendly." In fact, some people used their contracts to argue that Brady was actually the better player and that he 'cared more about winning' (even though for four of the first five years Manning's deal had a better cap figure). Now, five years later he's engaged in heated talks with the Patriots to get a new contract.

Let's examine what each team got for their money:


Length of Deal
7 years
6 years

Total Cash
$99 million
$60 million

Guaranteed $
$34.5 million
$26.5 million

Ave $ per
$14.1 million
$10 million


$ per Win
$1.29 million*
$1.22 million*

Playoff Berths

Division Titles

Conference Titles

Super Bowls Titles

MVP Awards

TD Passes


Completion %


*With a year to go on both deals, this number will drop. It's calculated on the total cost of the deal, not money paid to date.

How much did the Colts get from Manning over the length of this deal? Consider that for the first 20 seasons the Colts were in Indianapolis, they appeared in the playoffs 7 times. They won three division titles.  They won no conference titles. They had just four 10 win seasons in the 20 years before Manning's contract.

Most of what people said about the deals proved untrue. The Colts remained competitive (to say the least) despite the big contract. The Patriots failed to win another Super Bowl and have gained a reputation as a team that doesn't pay its players. Manning didn't fold under the 'pressure' of the biggest contract ever, immediately winning the MVP award the year after singing his deal.

Tom Brady's deal, for all its team-friendliness, has turned the relationship between team and player sour, as Brady (rightly) feels the team never spent that money he left on the table and now is unhappy about playing for a base salary of just a couple of million dollar this season. Brady feels like the team has been less than stand-up with him, and the team is unhappy with his lack of participation in offseason workouts. The Patriots, in year six of Brady's deal, are not considered prohibitive favorites to win their division, and many wonder if the team has lost its way.

Meanwhile, the Colts and Manning are quietly renegotiating another mega-deal which Jim Irsay promised will be the richest in the NFL. The parties are all operating from a position of trust, and no one has the slightest question that a deal will be reached. The Colts are prohibitive favorites to win the AFC South again, and are among the top contenders to make the Super Bowl again.

It's funny how life turns out.


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