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Manning a true franchise player

Colts designate four-time MVP

Associated Press / February 16, 2011

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The Colts are keeping Peyton Manning — no matter what it costs.

Manning, the only four-time MVP in league history, has been given the exclusive franchise tag, a move that could cost the Colts $23 million next season. Team owner Jim Irsay announced the decision last night on Twitter.

“We have placed the franchise tag on Peyton while we continue to negotiate a long term deal,’’ Irsay wrote.

The move is hardly a surprise.

Last year, Irsay promised to make Manning the NFL’s highest-paid player. He has reiterated that position many times since then with one caveat — if the Colts couldn’t reach a new deal with Manning before free agency started they would use the franchise tag.

The Colts did the same thing in 2004 before eventually agreeing to a seven-year, $98 million deal. The Colts then pulled the tag.

By “tagging’’ Manning, no other team can negotiate with the Colts’ franchise quarterback.

Manning is just one of several high profile players to be tagged yesterday, including Eagles QB Michael Vick, who set career highs in yards passing (3,018), touchdowns passing (21), touchdowns rushing (9), completion percentage (62.6), and passer rating (100.2).

In addition, the Jets placed the tag on linebacker David Harris, who was voted the team MVP by his teammates after having 99 tackles and three sacks in his fourth season.

The Ravens designated Pro Bowl defensive tackle Haloti Ngata as their franchise player. Ngata was drafted by Baltimore in 2006 with the 12th overall pick. The 6-foot-4-inch, 350-pounder had 65 tackles and a career-high 5 1/2 sacks this season in making the Pro Bowl for a second straight year.

The Chargers designated receiver Vincent Jackson as their non-exclusive franchise player. Jackson, who sat out the first 10 games of last season in a contract dispute, can negotiate with other teams. If he receives an offer, the Chargers can either match the other club’s offer or receive two first-round draft choices as compensation.

Sides dig in Both sides in the labor talks are trying to spread the word by putting their positions in writing, and everyone’s getting in on the act — from Hall of Fame players Jack Youngblood and Bruce Smith, to commissioner Roger Goodell, to mayors of league cities.

In a letter obtained by the AP, Youngblood and Smith asked NFL owners to promise not to lock out players even if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t reached by the time the current one expires at the end of the day March 3.

Youngblood was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001, Smith in 2009. Their letter was addressed to “Owners of the National Football League’’ and sent Jan. 31 to Goodell at league headquarters in New York.

“As former players, it is crystal clear that the vast popularity and financial success of football means that a lock out cannot be in the interest of anybody involved, particularly the fans who support the game,’’ Youngblood and Smith wrote. “We understand the need for both sides to create pressure, but also know that at times it is important to decrease tenor and tone in order for the right deal to be made in a non-emotional atmosphere.’’

They noted that the players’ union already “pledged to not strike.’’

“By making the parallel commitment,’’ they wrote, “the owners would create the breathing room for a deal to be struck.’’

Mayors or city officials from at least five sites of NFL teams have written letters to the league or a club official to argue against a lockout.

Goodell, meanwhile, indicated in an op-ed piece that the 2011 regular season could be in jeopardy if the league and union don’t start “serious negotiations’’ toward a new CBA soon.

“The hard work to secure the next NFL season must now accelerate in earnest,’’ Goodell wrote in the piece, which has been run by more than 30 newspapers or websites since last week and was posted yesterday on NFLlabor.com.

He said he “cannot emphasize enough the importance of reaching agreement by’’ the expiration of the old CBA.

Goodell also said owners need more money to offset “costs of financing, building, maintaining and operating stadiums.’’

The biggest issue separating the sides is how to divide $9 billion in annual revenues; under the old deal, the owners receive $1 billion off the top, and they want to increase that to $2 billion before players get their share.

Naanee arrested Chargers receiver Legedu Naanee faces charges of public intoxication and resisting arrest after police say he ignored officers’ orders to stay away from a weekend homicide scene in Indianapolis. Police said Naanee, 27, cursed at officers and refused repeated requests to walk away from an area officers had taped off to investigate a slaying early Saturday. A police report says officers had to use pepper spray and knee strikes to subdue Naanee so he could be handcuffed and that he smelled of alcohol . . . Redskins kick returner Brandon Banks had a tube inserted in his chest and remains hospitalized following a stabbing. Banks’s agent, James Gould, said Banks is expected to have a 100 percent recovery from the stabbing, which occurred outside a D.C. nightclub early Saturday.

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