Contract disputes are common in sports, but the Indianapolis Colts have generally avoided them in recent years.

Manning will soon sign a massive contract extension with the Colts. With all the endorsmenents Manning has sealed, why not take a little less money so the team will have more to spread around to his supporting cast?

Not anymore.

With a monster payday on the horizon for Peyton Manning, the quarterback’s teammates are looking for their piece of the pie.

In a questionable move, Colts owner Jim Irsay recently announced that Manning – whose contract expires following the 2010 season – will be the highest-paid player in the NFL.

Rare is the professional athlete who turns down the largest contract attainable. However, if Manning has aspirations of hoisting another Lombardi Trophy perhaps he should do just that.

Another Super Bowl ring puts Manning in the best-quarterback-ever conversation. But if he takes a max-money contract, there won’t be much left to spread around.

Former Pro Bowlers Reggie Wayne, Antoine Bethea, and Robert Mathis are all unhappy with their current contracts and are missing mandatory team functions as a result. Needless to say they won’t be thrilled when Manning becomes the highest-paid player in league history.

If Manning breaks the bank with a new contract, what will happen to the boatload of free agents the Colts have looming after the 2010 season? Bethea, Clint Session, Melvin Bullitt, Joseph Addai, Charlie Johnson, Daniel Muir, and Antonio Johnson are among them.

It’s up to Manning to provide a so-called ‘hometown discount.’ Nothing dramatic, just slightly less than market value. Enough for team president Bill Polian to be able to point to Manning’s actions and hope some of the team’s contract disputes fade away. Manning reportedly makes around $10 million per year in endorsements. So what’s a few million less in a contract that is sure to set new standards regardless?

Who knows, maybe if Manning takes less money other free agents might follow suit for a shot at another ring.

Manning taking less money seems unlikely. The man has endorsed a slew of products – sports drinks, electronics, credit cards, cookies, and a local car dealership to name a few. His pursuit of money appears endless.

Yes, it’s easy for me to say he should pass on millions. But let’s be real. If Manning breaks his arm tomorrow and never plays again, he could go Brewster’s Millions with his money for the rest of his days and never run out.

History has proven that even the best quarterbacks need a strong supporting cast to win Super Bowls. Just ask John Elway, Dan Marino, or Manning himself. He was pedestrian during the Colts’ Super Bowl run in 2006 as the team leaned on its running game and defense.

The Colts have all the pieces to make another title run or two before Manning retires. Whether or not the team will have enough money to keep the supporting cast around No. 18 is yet to be seen.

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