Anybody who has been watching Eli Manning humbly, superbly and victoriously run The Big Blue Wrecking Crew since unseating Hall of Fame QB Kurt Warner midway through his rookie season in 2004 knows that he is the type of cat who lets his performance do the talking.
He never begged fickle NY fans to love him. He just went out there – on his Seth Curry – and played in the shadows of his big brother Peyton (arguably the greatest signal caller in history) and made Ernie Accorsi’s now legendary draft day shuffle one of the best moves in history.
Sure, Philip Rivers is still playing and putting up hollow monster numbers for a perennially decent San Diego Chargers squad, but the Bolts have never been able to muster up any "Manning to Tyree" magic on the way to a Super Bowl victory.
Eli, on the other hand, has fought ridicule and doubt and won two Super Bowls in dramatic fashion as he enters the 12th year of his illustrious Giants career. And all the while, downplaying his greatness and clutch ability and crediting the team.
QBs in Eli’s class such as Ben Roethlisberger, Russell Wilson, and Rivers each received new, plush deals with one year left on their prior ones and they don't mean anymore to their team than Eli.
The Giants and Manning’s agent Tom Condon are currently in negotiations on a new mega-deal for Eli, who is coming off one of the better statistical years of his career.
His 63.1 percentage completion is a career-high and he had his first 4,000 plus passing season since 2011. He also threw 30 TDs and tied a career low with 14 picks. With the addition of instant sensation Odell Beckham and a strengthened backfield, the Giants offense should be rolling this season.
It was reported by several media outlets that Eli wants to be the highest QB boss in the sport. Other talk show pundits and outlets jumped all over the scoop, denouncing Eli for implying that he was as good as Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady.
Not that he had to respond to such social media hype -- because any Giants fan knows that Eli doesn’t get down like that. However, for the sake of fair reporting, Eli had to get to the bottom of things with Giants media relations people and espn.go.com reported that Eli was miffed on Wednesday when he disputed an NFL Network report that he's seeking to become the Donald Trump of QBs.
"The reports are all wrong," Manning said before Giants practice. "That's never been said, it's never come out of my mouth, I've never said it to my agent, I don't know where people are getting their information."
A source says the Giants' initial offer to Manning was for $17.5 million a year, which is what he's making this year and is less than other quarterbacks such as the Bears' Jay Cutler and the Dolphins' Ryan Tannehill.
Manning said he checks in from time to time with Condon, to see how talks are progressing. But he said he doesn't do it very often because he wants to leave Condon alone to do his job.
"I know that was never said by him, claiming that was the goal," Manning said. "I don't compare myself to other quarterbacks that way, in terms of salaries."
Manning went so far as to accuse the reporter who reported the story of "trying to make a name for himself.
The fact that the report isn’t accurate and Manning disputes it vehemently is one thing, but even if it was true Manning is a legendary winner in New York sports history and he’s paid the cost to be the boss. When you play and excel under a higher level of scrutiny and fan aggression, then you should be paid accordingly. That much hasn’t changed in the world.
Manning was one of four quarterbacks taken in the first round of that legendary 2004 Draft (which has been likened to the QB Class of ’83 featuring Hall of Famers Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim “Shotgun” Kelly) along with Roethlisberger, Rivers, and J.P. Losman.
Manning, Roethlisberger, and Rivers have all become major shot callers, team leaders and voted to the Pro Bowl and until 2013, Roethlisberger and Manning had not produced a season with a losing record. Like Eli, Big Ben has a couple of those shiny things up on the mantle too.
Been There, Done That
Besides, this wouldn’t be the first time Eli Manning was paid more than any player in the sport. Manning signed a six-year, $97.5 million extension that raised his salary over the $100 million mark ($106.9) in 2009. At the time, he became the highest paid player in the game, making an average of $15.3 million per year – the highest of any multi-year pact ever signed in NFL history. That’s just the cost of being live on the highest media stage.
Eli’s biggest badge of courage and his greatest value lies in his incomparable durability.
The man has started every game since Nov. 21, 2004 of his rookie season. He took the ball when I was a young buck, now I have kids and he still hasn’t given it back.
Eli has played in a league-leading 167 consecutive regular season games and 11 playoff games. He is the NFL’s true Iron Man. It’s the third-longest streak in history behind his brother Peyton’s 208 game streak (1998-2011) and mighty Brett Favre's insane 297 regular season game streak (1992-2010) which spans three U.S Presidents.
With that in mind, there’s nowhere to go but up for Eli with this new contract. Even if Eli doesn’t want to be the highest paid QB in the sport, the leverage he gained from the huge extension he signed in 2009 puts him in a strong business position as far as negotiations is concerned. Eli's monetary demands don't stem from any ego-driven or delusional thought that he truly is the best QB in the game. His agent is going to broker the best deal possible. Let’s not act like he hasn’t earned his stripes though.
It's All In The Numbers
Mike Florio of profootballtalk.nbcsports.com put it best:
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.
And looking elsewhere is just insane thinking. In football durability is everything and that’s why Eli Manning is worth more than any QB in the game.
He doesn’t get hurt!