Colts’ Jim Irsay: Peyton Manning will be ‘highest-paid player in the league’

Colts owner Jim Irsay said he is pursuing a contract extension for QB Peyton Manning that he expects will make the four-time MVP the richest player in the NFL.

“We know Peyton’s going to be the highest-paid player in the league,” Irsay said.

“It’s something that’ll get done. We’ll be talking in the offseason.”

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Manning’s contract expires after the 2010 season, along with the contract of his counterpart in New England, Tom Brady. Irsay said the Colts will be monitoring Brady’s contract status as they consider a new deal with Manning.

“Sure, those two guys are kind of tied at the hip as outstanding players,” Irsay said. “Brady’s up at the same time and there’s no question that those guys are comparable in terms of what they’ll be getting paid.”

Irsay said he’s not concerned about losing Manning after his current deal expires, but he noted the Colts have options to retain him even without an extension, as the Patriots have with Brady.

“Both us and the Patriots will have the franchise tag,” he said, “but normally it doesn’t come to that.”

How much will the contract be worth? Redskin DT Albert Haynesworth signed the richest deal in NFL history last March at $100 million with $41 million guaranteed. Lions QB Matthew Stafford then agreed to a deal with $41.7 million guaranteed in April. Both Manning’s and Brady’s deals could surpass those numbers, or greater ones that might be signed during the upcoming free-agent season.

Irsay said that Manning’s deal is easy compared to trying to keep his mid-level players, and he wants to have a balanced deal that will allow him to keep a strong supporting cast.

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