Wednesday’s Morning Links:

Steve O Speak

Colts Set To Show Manning The Money: This year’s biggest NFL free agent isn’t going anywhere as the Colts have made it abundantly clear they will pay Peyton Manning whatever he is worth. My guess is it will be bigger than Tom Brady‘s deal and carry more guaranteed money, but don’t be shocked if its more creative as well. I think that without a doubt the salary cap will be back next season, and it is even possible that the NFL slows its growth rate. Regardless of how large it is, and how much it will grow each season, it is in the Colts best interest to find ways to defer costs into the future. Look for extra years to be tacked on with some of the money guaranteed, well past when they’d want to pay Manning so that they can lower his costs now. Sure the money will accelerate when Manning retires, and there could be a significant dead money amount that season, but its the smart play. What would you rather have one year of a big dead money hit, during a season where I’m guessing the playoffs will be a longshot without Manning, or paying an extra $2-3 million over 4-6 years, while you are a viable playoff and Super Bowl contender with Manning. Those extra million per year would be the equivalent of another solid starter compared to a minimum salary guy, and that could be the difference. Manning’s contract will be a fun story to watch, but there really isn’t any suspense involved, he will be a Colt well into the future.

Rumors Persist That The League Will Force The Players Hand: While there has been a number of accusations on both sides during this posturing period of labor talks, this is one story that could hold water. Basically instead of the league ‘locking out’ the players over contract negotiations, they will publicly announce their final offer, and force the players to decide whether to accept it or ‘strike’. That is the only feasible way I could see a work stoppage in the NFL. While neither side wins in a labor dispute, the owners and league have more on the line. Even if a work stoppage doesn’t affect one single game next season, they would have to deal with the process stories all year long. How they couldn’t sign/trade a certain player because of the work stoppage, or that a player got injured because he didn’t have a full offseason workout plan. And finally certain teams went to the playoffs, because they didn’t have a significant amount of turnover, and other teams couldn’t compete because they did. If the players strike you will still have stories, but the main culprit won’t be the owners. And lets face it the owners can’t face the bad press in a down economy. When unemployment rate is at an all-time high, no one wins in a battle between billionaires and millionaires. And the billionaires even get a bigger share of the blame as they need to now go out and sell season tickets and merchandise. Unlike the NHL which had a lockout and has recovered nicely, there was an actual reason for the lockout as salaries were exceeding revenues and could have become a real solvency issue for the league. There is no solvency issue for the NFL as even the poorest teams are quite capable of paying their bills. Look for an agreement to be reached, but if not don’t look for the NFL and the owners to take the fall.

Matt Szczur Chooses MLB Over the NFL: Villanova star wide receiver Matt Szczur will commit fully to the Chicago Cubs, and forgo his NFL career at this time. Szczur was a 5th round pick last season by the Chicago Cubs and signed for a bonus of $100K, with an additional $400K (or $500K) if he choose baseball over football by this February. Szczur played rookie ball for the Cubs last summer, and looked really good and was even named the Cubs 7th best prospect according to Baseball America. At the same time though he went back to Villanova for his senior season, and had another impressive year. He was projected to be drafted in the 4-5th round based on workouts, but given his work ethic and character (which are both off the charts) he could have heard his name called much sooner. Szczur seemed likely to choose football over baseball, so the Cubs stepped up their offer to $1.5 million. Szczur will now be heading to Spring Training as opposed to the NFL Combine this spring. He is still a bit raw as a prospect since he split time between two sports, but he has a ton of potential. He profiles as a starting center field prospect, who could be up within 2-3 seasons. Its a bold move for Chicago, and one that I’m sure many an NFL G.M. hates to see.

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