Manning's Choice: Pay Now or Win Later

Football's a funny game sometimes. Quarterbacks get the glory, at the expense of the guys who catch their passes and keep them from getting sacked, and then they get paid glorious sums of money. If those guys doing the catching and the blocking become less productive, though, that quarterback's not worth all that money anymore. 

As the Giants begin talks on a long-term contract for Eli Manning that could reach $120 million, it's worth asking how good Manning will be without great receivers. He had a great offensive line in front of him and a great running game over the season's last month, but his numbers cratered because he didn't have someone to go out and make plays on the balls he threw. Plaxico Burress' absence may not have cost the Giants their shot at a second title, but he left the offense in a spot of disarray that Manning couldn't lead them clear of.

Tom Rock raises a good point in Newsday this morning regarding Manning's impending extension. He's going to sign for an obscene, albeit deserved in the framework of NFL salaries, amount of money that needs to be structured the right way. If Manning takes a lot of money up front, it could seriously impact the team's ability to bring in a receiver to replace Burress, in the still likely event that he isn't back in 2009.

Brandon Jacobs is getting a new deal as well, but running backs don't play long enough for backloaded deals. He's also a free agent right now, wheras Manning is a year away and should be signing the contract that takes him through the shank of his career. As good as Manning has been at points, it's clear that his career will be enhanced by having the right guys running underneath his throws.

The Giants must have had one or two pangs of doubt about Manning during the Eagles game. Not enough to move in a different direction, of course, but enough to figure out a way to work this contract so that it doesn't stop them from addressing pressing team needs. If Manning wants to keep winning, he'll be on the same page.

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