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New Deal with Colts Makes Manning Highest Paid Player in NFL History - 2004-03-03

National Football League star quarterback Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts have agreed to a seven-year contract worth more than $99 million. The deal makes Manning the highest paid player in NFL history.

Tuesday's deal includes an NFL-record $34.5 million signing bonus. The entire bonus is guaranteed, and he can earn another $19 million in roster bonuses if he is among the active players each year of his sever year contract. Manning says he is thrilled to have the chance to finish his career with the team.

"I am very happy to be here as a Colt for life, essentially. I am just appreciative of a number of people, but especially the Colts organization," he said. The new agreement lowers the league's co-Most Valuable Player's salary cap to $8.3 million a year. That will save the Colts more than $10 million and gives the team more flexibility to sign players when the free agency period opens Wednesday. Last year was easily the best of Manning's six-year pro career. He threw for almost 4300 yards, with 29 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions. Since the Colts made him the number-one overall pick in the 1998 draft, Manning has become the only quarterback in league history with five straight 4,000 yard seasons.

By agreeing to a deal before March 17, the Colts can remove the "franchise-player" tag they put on Manning last week. If they had to keep the tag on Manning, it would have cost the Colts a league-record $18.4 million against next year's salary cap of $80.6 million.