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CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist

Is a Super shot with Manning worth the hangover after he retires?


Even if Manning returns to form, that's no guarantee that another Super Bowl title is in his future. (US Presswire)  
Even if Manning returns to form, that's no guarantee that another Super Bowl title is in his future. (US Presswire)  

I call it selling your soul.

That's what any team that signs Peyton Manning would be doing. I still think Manning can play at a high level, but it's not a certainty. And even if he can play like he did before his four neck surgeries, who says he wins a title?

The questions nobody out there is asking are there: What if he doesn't win a Super Bowl? What if it doesn't work? What if he's gone to retirement and hanging with his young twins in two years?

Anything short of winning a Super Bowl would make his signing a failure.

Division title? Not good enough.

Playing in a conference title game? Still not good enough.

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Super Bowl loser? Nope.

Win a ring or the move is a failure for the signing team. There would be no other way to describe it.

Let's say Team A signs Manning to a five-year, incentive-laden deal with $25 million in guaranteed money. Let's say it's back-loaded and it's really only a three-year deal, with two years added on for bookkeeping purposes.

Team A would then have three years to win a Super Bowl. In those three years, that team would likely avoid drafting a potential franchise passer.

So it might come to this even if he does win a title: one ring followed by a decade of losing.

Some will say that's worth it. Is it? That team's fans should be like that guy who jumps off cliffs for the shear enjoyment of it with that squirrel suit. Eventually, the crash is coming. The thrill of the ride is fine, and it will be for the team that signs Manning, but the crash is inevitable.

Just look at the Colts.

A year ago, long before we thought Manning's neck would keep him sidelined, the Colts were considered a Super contender. Then he misses the entire season, they finish with the worst record in the league, and now they're blowing up the franchise.

The only thing left is Jim Irsay's wacky Twitter account and that might be part of the purge too the way things are going.

The Colts might not contend for a Super Bowl for another four years. It could be longer.

But Manning produced a decade of dominance and one Super Bowl title. He also helped Irsay build a new stadium and attract a Super Bowl to a city that would have never had it without the house that Peyton built.

For the Colts, it was more than worth it.

But this Manning is 35. This Manning has a bad neck. This Manning is hoping a nerve regenerates just to be able to throw with the same velocity he once did. You can have all the grainy videos leaked to the media you want. Until he lines up and throws for a half-hour, nobody will know for sure if he can do it.

It's like hearing great things about a racehorse that once won a big-stakes race. Then finding out the horse has a bad foot. Would you buy it? Would you even bet on it?

Yes, Manning is a tireless worker and if anybody can do it he can. But it's still risky -- to say the least.

I say he comes back. And I still think he plays well.

But I offer this caution: If he doesn't win a Super Bowl with his new team, that team will have a hard time recovering.

As detailed as Manning is on the nuances of the NFL game, he has to know this deep down, not that it should matter to him. But the team that signs him will essentially be selling the team soul. Just remember that as Manning excitement grips his new city or state, whether it's Denver, Miami or Phoenix or wherever.

There will be only one way to judge whether Peyton Manning is a good move, and that will be if his new team adds that big, shiny Tiffany trophy to the case in their hallway.

Pete Prisco has covered the NFL for three decades, including working as a beat reporter in Jacksonville for the Jaguars. He hosted his own radio show for seven years, and is the self-anointed star of CBS Sports' show, Eye on Football. When he's not watching game tape, you can find Pete on Twitter or dreaming of an Arizona State national title in football.

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