Peyton Manning is about to become one of the most coveted free agents in NFL history. The Indianapolis Colt looks like he will be available to 32 teams this season. So like most of my fellow bloggers, I decided to take a stab at the most possible destinations for Manning.
One thing that I think is lost on everyone in this Peyton Manning fantasy G.M. talk is Peyton Manning. Peyton and the Colts will part ways officially today. Manning will then become a free agent. In other words, he has just as much say as in who he will sign with as the teams that seek his services. That is huge!
The reason I point this out is because let’s face it, a lot of teams could use Peyton Manning. However, with so many options, he can be as picky as he wants to be. So why would Manning want to go to an organization with instability, a lack of draft picks, and little talent on offense? He wouldn’t, which is why I think these rumors about Peyton to the New York Jets are ridiculous. Between playing in New York, playing for a team with a bad locker room, and playing for a head coach who as big of a talker as Rex Ryan (see Manning’s past coaches) is, there is no way Peyton would sign with the Jets.
The AFC Peyton Bowl Contenders
Baltimore Ravens – How ironic would it be to see the former Colt play for the team in Baltimore? It would actually be quite fitting in a historic sense. But the reality is that the Ravens are the leading contender in my opinion to land Peyton. Joe Flacco isn’t bad, but he is nowhere close to Manning’s level. This is a team that has been incredibly close in recent years to reaching the Super Bowl, yet a play or two away from actually returning to the big dance. Peyton would be that difference maker. Plus, the contract situation for the Ravens couldn’t be better with Flacco coming up on the last year of his contract. The Ravens could keep Flacco and allow Peyton time to recover or trade him for picks. The organization is stable, the weapons are there on offense and for a team as close as the Ravens have been, the gamble makes perfect sense.
Denver Broncos – Throw this team in as a major contender while you are at it. Tim Tebow is fun, but he is no Peyton Manning. This is a team run by one of the greatest QBs of all-time, John Elway. How badly do you think Elway would want to see Peyton Manning as a Bronco? I think pretty badly. The stability is there, he’d have a great offensive line, and he’d have an exciting wide receiving corps to boot. I can’t remember the last time the Broncos spent big money on a free agent, but Peyton Manning is a different animal altogether.
Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins certainly haven’t had any lucky drafting a franchise quarterback since Dan Marino, so why not go for the sure thing? The stability could be in question with a new head coach, but Peyton would have an instant franchise wide receiver to throw to, as well as one of the most underrated up-and-coming defenses in the division. Financially I don’t know if the move would make sense for the Dolphins, but you’d certainly have to put them into consideration.
Kansas City Chiefs – They brought a Hall of Fame NFL QB in once at the end of his career, why not twice? The stability here is certainly a question but a healthy Peyton Manning could have a field day with the weapons he’d have with the Chiefs. I think Peyton really enjoys playing in a place like Indianapolis because it isn’t as high profile as a New York or even Miami team. Kansas City would allow him a similar lifestyle, a franchise full of great tradition, and a very beatable division. Unfortunately Cassel’s ridiculous contract makes this a lot less likely to happen than it should be.
Houston Texans – The Texans would certainly be a surprise suitor for Manning but is it really that far-fetched? There is a lot of talent here and while Matt Schaub is a pretty good QB, he hasn’t been able to get the job done. Schaub is entering his contract year so they could trade him, cut him, or keep him and allow Manning to continue rehabbing to make this work. Remember how much Brett Favre wanted to come back and beat the Green Bay Packers? The idea of playing for an immediate contender in the Colts division would have to be appealing to Peyton. It’s a dome, the organization appears relatively stable, and he knows the division. Don’t count these guys out.
The NFC Peyton Bowl Contenders
Philadelphia Eagles – Yes, I list the Eagles as the top team in the NFC to land Peyton. This is obviously a team not afraid to spend in free agency. The Michael Vick contract is tricky but you can’t tell me that the Eagles wouldn’t find someone that would want to trade for Vick. The stability is certainly in question with Andy Reid, but I could see the Eagles giving Reid an extension immediately as a show of good faith to Peyton. He also has the Howard Mudd connection which while not great, is something to consider. I would not be surprised to see this go down, as a matter of a fact I’d be surprised if the Eagles weren’t at least in the top running to land him.
Dallas Cowboys – Talk about a shocker! Yes, the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones is tired of losing. He just mortgaged his entire business on a shiny new stadium which is going to have some empty seats if these losing seasons continue. Jones took some subtle shots at Tony Romo (and not so subtle) for the first time this season, especially after watching Eli lead the New York Giants to the Super Bowl. Jones is a high stakes man and I think he would sell his soul to bring an elite QB like Manning to the Cowboys. Tony Romo has two years left on his deal and trading him probably wouldn’t be too difficult with his numbers. Would Peyton want to come to Dallas? Throwing to Miles Austin, Dez Bryant, Jason Witten, handing off to DeMarco Murray, and playing in a dome sounds pretty enticing if you ask me.
San Francisco 49ers – Like the Baltimore Ravens, this was a team very close to going to the Super Bowl. While Alex Smith had one of the greatest postseason games for a QB in NFL history against the New Orleans Saints, I don’t think anyone is ready to anoint him as an elite QB. Smith is a free agent which frees up any QB controversy in San Francisco. Manning would immediately be paired with a franchise tight end (he likes those doesn’t he?) as well as one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. A former Indianapolis Colts QB coaching a former Indianapolis Colts QB? Sounds pretty good doesn’t it 49ers fans?
Arizona Cardinals – Arizona appears to be the early leader for Peyton’s services, yet I am not convinced that they would even make his top five list of desirable teams. The coaching situation is unstable, the franchise just spent some decent change for a QB, the offensive line stinks, and there isn’t a whole lot of talent on offense other than his wide receiver. Most importantly, the Cardinals are a losing organization with very little rich tradition other than a few good years with Kurt Warner. Players go to Arizona for the pay check at the end of their careers, not to win a Super Bowl. It’s a possibility but I think it is a long shot.