Time might be near for Colts to draft a quarterback
With Manning entering 14th season, time might be drawing near to find his eventual successor
Mannings won't confirm reported birth of twins
If the time isn't right for the Indianapolis Colts to seriously address a position occupied by a future Hall of Famer, that time is drawing near.
Team vice chairman Bill Polian conceded earlier this week he "couldn't dismiss" the possibility of looking for a quarterback during the April 28-30 draft.
That's been the domain of Peyton Manning since the Colts selected him with the first pick of the 1998 draft. He is the NFL's only four-time MVP, an 11-time Pro Bowl selection, was MVP of the team's Super Bowl XLI win over the Chicago Bears and has started all 227 games, including the playoffs, since '98.
But there's no denying Manning, 35, is closer to the end than the beginning of his record-breaking career. He is entering his 14th season.
The Colts reportedly put Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick through a private workout Friday in Reno. Earlier this week, coach Jim Caldwell and general manager Chris Polian oversaw a private workout with TCU quarterback Andy Dalton.
The team has six picks in the draft, including No. 22 overall. Most draft analysts rate Kaepernick and Dalton as second- to fourth-round prospects.
The only other quarterback on the Colts roster is Curtis Painter, who has served as Manning's backup since being chosen in the sixth round of the 2009 draft.
"Quarterback's an issue, probably not a front-burner issue, but an issue nonetheless because while Peyton's not at the end of his career, it's approaching faster than it has in the past," Polian said. "I wouldn't rule that out in the right situation."
The prevailing question is: How soon should the process of acquiring Manning's eventual successor and grooming him begin? "You don't know," Polian said, "but you know it's sometime soon. You begin to think about it."
So, might the Colts be in the market for a Manning successor or backup in the draft?
"I don't know that you're going to find his eventual replacement drafting 22nd," Polian said. "And whether or not you would use that choice on a quarterback in an unsettled labor situation, where you don't know what kind of contract that's going to be signed, is another issue.
"That said, I don't think you can dismiss it."
The Green Bay Packers faced a similar dilemma in 2005. Brett Favre was 35 and heading into his 15th season. The Packers, unsure how much longer Favre might play, selected Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick in the draft.
The grooming process lasted longer than expected. Rodgers appeared in just seven games and attempted only 59 passes in his first three seasons.
It's assumed Manning will finish his career with the Colts, but his future remains unsettled. His contract expired at the end of the 2010 season and the team used the "exclusive franchise" tag to keep him from hitting the open market. That guarantees Manning a one-year, $23.1 million contract, but the former NFL Players Association contends the ability of teams to use the franchise and transition tags ended when the collective bargaining agreement expired last month.
Owner Jim Irsay said last month he fully anticipates the franchise tag to remain valid.
"I have never seen a situation where the tag is in jeopardy," he said while reiterating his commitment to make Manning the highest-paid player in NFL history, surpassing the $18 million-a-year extension the New England Patriots gave quarterback Tom Brady in September.
At the owners meetings last month, Irsay seemed frustrated a new deal wasn't reached before the lockout. Negotiations between the Colts and agent Tom Condon are not permitted during the ongoing work stoppage.