INDIANAPOLIS -- The Peyton Manning era is over for the Indianapolis Colts, who announced in a Wednesday afternoon news conference that they are releasing the former NFL MVP quarterback.
Team owner Jim Irsay confirmed the ongoing speculation during the news conference, saying, "We are here to honor the incredible memories, the incredible things he's done."
The Colts have decided to pass on the $28 million bonus owed to Manning as part of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he signed with the team last July, making him a free agent.
Irsay stated he and Manning have had numerous conversations over the past month, but kept coming back to circumstances he said were too difficult to overcome. Irsay said the change comes as the team rebuilds and problems with salary caps.
The Kansas City Chiefs, along with the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals and the New York Jets, have been mentioned as a potential destination for Manning. Under NFL tampering rules, teams are not allowed to make contact with Manning or his agents until after he has been released from the Colts.
During the NFL spring combine, Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel said that the Chiefs would be interested in Manning if he became available.
“With a talent like that, I would be crazy not to consider it if he’s available. I’ll leave it at that,” said Crennel.
In 14 seasons with the Colts, the 36-year-old Manning has led the team to 11 playoff appearances, two AFC championships and a Super Bowl title. But he has also undergone two major neck operations since the 2009 offseason - the first one to repair a damaged nerve that was causing weakness in his throwing arm, and a second operation that fused two vertebrae in his neck, and forced him to miss the entire 2011 season.
The Colts, a consistent championship contender with Manning at QB, struggled to a league-worst 2-14 record without him in 2011, giving them the first overall pick in April's draft.
Word of Manning's impending release was greeted with sadness by many Colts fans.
"I'm very depressed," one fan told CNN. "I wanted Peyton to finish out his career with us. We love him. I'm very heartbroken, but what must be must be."
Manning has thrown for 54,828 yards in his career - the third-most in NFL history behind Brett Favre and Dan Marino - to go with 399 touchdowns and 198 interceptions.