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Dolphins Must Hit Manning Fast & Hard

If the Miami Dolphins want Peyton Manning, they will need to hit him fast and hard on Friday morning.  Stephen Ross needs to fly to Miami meet with Manning and start the rigorous task of getting him under contract.  Manning who is expected to be released any day now will be paid a 28 million dollar roster bonus on March 8th if he is on the roster.  Today is the 6th.  Do the math.

For the Dolphins, the Manning situation will have lingering effects on their free agency push.  Ben Volin of the Palm Beach Post had a great article today about the situation.  Read it here.  He talks about LBTE and NLBTE incentives that will have a direct impact on the Dolphins salary cap.  If the league determines that the incentives are likely to be earned, LBTE, then the Dolphins cap number for Manning goes up…considerably.  If they are deemed not likely to be earned, NLTBE, the cap number will stay low and the Dolphins will take a hit next year.  Volin spells this out nicely with a sample contract to drive home his point, but it’s what he says early in his article that got my attention.

They’re not making any other big free agent offers until they complete negotiations with him and figure out how much of their cap space they must use on him.

This is precisely what I said in an article yesterday and Volin drives home the point with the above mentioned contract issues.  The reality is this, the Miami Dolphins want Peyton Manning and until Manning is off the street, they are not likely to start looking at other free agents.  In other words, their eggs are all in one basket.

There is a huge issue with this line of thinking if in fact that is what the Dolphins intentions are.  If they pursue Manning past the March 13th start of free agency and end up losing him, they potentially could lose the opportunity to sign Matt Flynn, Reggie Nelson, or any other free agent they wish to target.  Manning could use Miami’s interest to drive up the price from another team that he may have more interest in going to.  This dance with Manning could set the Phins into a bad situation.

For a second let’s assume the Dolphins pursuit of Manning comes up empty and by the time they realize they are not getting him Flynn is gone.  Immediate attention turns to the number 8 pick in the draft.  Will they take Ryan Tannehill?  What if Tannehill is gone by 8?  Will they trade up with St. Louis for RGIII?  If the only option for the Dolphins is a trade up with St. Louis you can bet the price tag will be through the roof.  Not that it isn’t already.

Volin mentions a CBA reference that is in regards to the LTBE and NLTBE wording.

“In the case of a Veteran who did not play during the prior season, in the event that the NFL and the NFLPA cannot agree as to whether such performance bonus is “likely to be earned,” such disputes shall be referred to the Impartial Arbitrator.”

This basically means that while the team is negotiating with Manning, they will have to know what category their contract would fall into.  There is no timetable on that but it is usually rather quick according to a league source I spoke with this morning.  The reason it matters, like Volin points out, if the incentives fall in the LTBE category, the team has a lot less money to spend elsewhere.

If Manning is released as expected he is a veteran free agent and there is no waiver period and no need for the league new year to roll around.  Teams can immediately start negotiations with him.  For the Dolphins, if they truly want Peyton Manning, they could have their QB situation taken care of well in advance of the start of free agency.  They will however, have to move fast to get Manning the best deal possible in the shortest amount of time.

Take a moment and head over to the PBP and read Volin’s article.  It’s will give you a good understanding of the LTBE and NLTBE formats and how they reflect salary cap num