- Associated Press - Sunday, July 31, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Peyton Manning didn’t need the money, and he sure didn’t want the title of being the NFL’s highest-paid player if it meant losing his teammates.

Nope, all the four-time MVP really wanted was a few more shots at winning a Super Bowl.

On Sunday, Manning, armed with a new five-year, $90 million contract _ likely the last of his career, reported to the Indianapolis Colts‘ training camp with a sense of relief.

“You take a look at things and what’s potentially going to happen, and I realized that I’ve got to have these guys around me,’” Manning said. “I’ve had that title, if you will, for the past seven years and I appreciate Bill (Polian) and Jim (Irsay) doing that seven years ago. I did everything I could to play like it, and I think there is an extra responsibility that comes with it. If they’re going to pay you like the highest-paid player, you better play like it.”

Manning has been worth every penny.

Since signing his last contract in 2004, the Colts have not missed the playoffs. Manning has won three MVP awards and led the Colts to two AFC titles, one Super Bowl crown. He now holds NFL records for most MVP Awards (four) and most regular-season wins in a decade (115).

With a resume like that, team owner Irsay and club vice chairman Polian were prepared to break the bank to keep Manning in Indy for the rest of his career.

But Manning said no thanks.

Peyton called me on Thursday and we had a long talk. He made it clear that the he didn’t want to be the highest-paid player in the league, he wanted to put the best possible team on the field and he wanted to finish his career as an Indianapolis Colt,” Polian said. “Over the weekend, we worked very hard to make that happen.”

While the annual average salary of $18 million per year matches Tom Brady’s record, Irsay described the deal as cap-friendly throughout the life of the contract.

Manning will get paid $69 million in the first three years and though his salary cap number this season will be $16 million, that’s substantially less than the $23.1 million he would have gotten playing under the franchise tag.

The benefit of saving that money is already paying dividends.

Shortly after Manning agreed to his new deal, the Colts re-signed free agent running back Joseph Addai to a three-year, $14 million contract. Addai is Indy’s best blocking back and a key part of keeping Manning upright against the blitz.

The team also redid the contract of right tackle Ryan Diem instead of cutting him.

In addition, the Colts have re-signed unrestricted free agents Melvin Bullitt, Bob Sanders’ projected replacement, and kicker Adam Vinatieri to three-year deals. And Sunday, Indy announced it was bringing back defensive tackles Eric Foster and Antonio Johnson, and offensive linemen Kyle DeVan and Michael Toudouze. DeVan started at left guard the last two seasons, while Johnson started at defensive tackle.

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