Here's why Peyton Manning has until March 9 to decide if he's retiring

Peyton Manning may be more interested in drinking beer than talking about his future, but some day soon he'll need to let the rest of us know if he'll retire or try to play again in 2016.

"We're going to enjoy this, let Peyton enjoy this,'' Broncos general manager John Elway said Tuesday, via "I'm sure he'll sit down with his family. Eventually we'll talk to him too and go through that. There's no timeline for that right now.''

But there will be.

In 29 days, the Broncos and Manning will have to come to a decision. Because if Manning is still on the roster on March 9, the official start of the new league year, his $19 million base salary ($21.5 million cap number) becomes fully guaranteed. That's a lot to pay any player, especially a 39-year-old quarterback who looks like, well, a 39-year-old quarterback.

Manning missed six games during the 2015 season while battling a torn plantar fascia, and when he did play, he was one of the league's worst passers. He finished the regular season with 9 touchdowns and 17 interceptions, and according to Football Outsiders' metrics, he ranked 36th in total QB value ahead of only Nick Foles.

Has Peyton Manning played his last game for the Broncos? (USATSI)
Has Peyton Manning played his last game for the Broncos? (USATSI)

Put another way: Manning doesn't have much in the way of leverage beyond "I used to be really good." Also not helping his case: the Broncos' defense was dominant the entire season; there's no reason to pay an over-the-hill quarterback $19 million to serve as a game manager when you can find replacement-level (or worse) production for much cheaper.

In terms of nostalgic parallels, Manning's retirement would dovetail nicely with that of Elway, who at 38, walked off into the sunset following the Broncos' Super Bowl title following the 1998 season. (One huge difference: Elway ranked 4th among all QBs that season.)

"In talking about retirement, that's what's hard, you can butt up to that line and then crossing that line, taking that final step, saying 'I am moving on,' that is very -- even if that first 99 percent is easy to get to, that last 1 percent is as hard as that first 99 percent ... That's why he's going to have the time he needs and it's basically going to be up to him," Elway explained.

Archie Manning, Peyton's father, said last week that his son "pretty much knows" he won't be with the Broncos in 2016.

To which Elway responded: "I don't know why Archie would say that. We're going to give Peyton plenty of time to think about what he wants to do.''

Until March 9, anyway. If Manning decides to retire or is released, the Broncos will gain $19 million of cap room.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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