So…now that the divorce is final, where WILL Manning land?
That’s a question that now looks like it should be answered before late April’s draft occurs. Manning says he’s 90% now, and he appeared to back that claim up with 5 consecutive days of throwing at Duke University. His wobbly passes are a trademark. I think he and Dan Marino went to the Weebles School of Passing – they wobble, but they don’t fall down. They arrive precisely on target no matter if they throw knuckleballs. I actually think I’d worry if I ever saw Peyton throwing tight spirals consistently.
At any rate, it doesn’t look like things will drag out into training camp and a late-August final okay from the doctors to let teams feel better about trying to get him. Manning is already talked about as “the biggest Free-Agent in NFL history” by some. Maybe so, maybe not, but whatever the case is, he’s a big BIG deal. If he really is 90% of what he was, that would be way better than what some teams have, and don’t forget Manning will likely take less money to play for a team he feels could contend. He wants another ring, and he’s not married to playing in a dome. All 6 teams listed have at least one major roadblock, in the form of a particular division opponent, that could easily force any potential suitors into a Wild Card spot – even WITH Manning.
Let’s have a look at those in no particular order:
Arizona Cardinals: Surprisingly, the Kurt Warner team was the most recent out of any of the group to go to a Super Bowl, but this team is well removed from the one that had Larry Fitzgerald, Anquan Boldin, and Steve Breaston with 1,000-yard seasons. After Matt Leinart proved a bust, Kevin Kolb was supposed to be the answer and common sense would seem to dictate that a re-structuring of Kolb’s contract will be needed to justify going after Manning. They have the worst salary cap situation of any of these teams, their OL is average at best, and watch the Levi Brown situation. The Cards want to keep him but he’s huge money too. If they can swing it all, there is the not-so-small matter of the 13-3 49’ers to deal with along the road to the playoffs, and it’s a challenge Peyton doesn’t need to face with a team still in the middle of rebuild mode.
Washington Redskins: I can’t see Peyton Manning wanting to play here. Their OL is a disaster and their skill positions aren’t all that much better with Fred Davis, an aging Santana Moss and not much else. Offensively, this team is the worst of the bunch and even though Dan Snyder is known to break out the checkbook, I don’t think Manning could be paid enough to play behind that line with those skill players. About the only thing in their favor is they have the most Salary Cap space, but again, Manning isn’t looking for money. He wants another ring.
Cleveland Browns: They have the stud LT in Joe Thomas to make Peyton happy along with C Alex Mack, but not the rest of the line. They would have to draft heavily on offense – at least 2 OL and a WR and RB, and perhaps another in FA to really give Peyton a chance to lead them very deep into the playoffs. Even with him, they’re at least a year away and Peyton doesn’t have much time left, 2-3 years maximum. The Browns would welcome Reggie Wayne as a package, as they have cap space. However, they are a lukewarm suitor and most likely looking at RG3 instead.
Miami Dolphins: Manning is already on record saying he’d like to play here, and if his Dad has say in where rookie Eli wound up, Peyton sure has say in where he himself will. He’s in Miami today, in fact. This team overall probably has the most talent and potential of the group of teams listed. Owner Bobby Ross wants Manning. They’ll do their best to get what they need, but many pieces are already there. They have a very big, talented WR in Brandon Marshall. They have Pro-Bowler LT Jake Long and added rookie C Mike Pouncey last season. They have the all-time best “Mr. Irrelevant” name, Richie Incognito, who has played decently at guard in Miami. This season, they should add that RT to replace Marc Colombo and an upgrade over Richie at guard, with former RT Vernon Carey playing well last season at the other guard spot. There’s that talk of Reggie Wayne and Peyton going as a pair, which could actually cause some friction between them and Marshall. Reggie Bush has had questions surrounding him at the NFL level but he’s always been a good receiving threat out of the backfield and literally has speed to burn. Add rising 2nd-yr RB Daniel Thomas for a power threat and accomplished slot WR Devone Bess, and Miami could transform themselves into a very potent offense indeed. There’s the added “bonus” of 2 Manning v. Brady matchups as divisional opponents.
Seattle Seahawks: I don’t think Hawks fans are looking forward to another year of Tavaris Jackson at the helm, and the front office has already made noise about wanting Manning there. With The Beast in the backfield and currently having the best overall OL of the group, opposing defenses will be in a quandary. The intriguing thing is Seattle plays in such a weak division, the rainy northwest might be the spot where Peyton could most easily get into the playoffs, as they don’t have many glaring holes and are probably up there with the Dolphins in terms of overall talent in this group of teams, but they have the same problem Arizona does: The 49’ers.
New York Jets: Whether Rex Ryan will say so publically or not, Mark Sanchez isn’t the answer in New York and has thrown a fit at the mere mention of Manning coming. He’s threatened to walk if Manning does come, and that would be worthwhile in and of itself for the Jets’ franchise. Bills reject Aaron Maybin led Gang Green in sacks. Plaxico won’t be there and Santonio Holmes isn’t the most popular fellow around there these days. The Jets are an organization that seems to be imploding, and I don’t see Peyton wanting to spend his last few years there especially with Eli in New York as well. The Jets have a Pro-bowl LT and C but didn’t play as well as a unit last year as they did in 2010. A lot of that might be attributed to poor QB play as the Jets have a solid OL as-is. They would welcome Reggie Wayne, given their current woes at wideout. Also, they have the same problem/attraction the Dolphins do: his Arch-Nemesis Tom Brady plays in the same division.
The early verdict is that since Cleveland has the firepower in draft choices to get RG3, that’s the route they’ll go and is the one they SHOULD go. Griffin is a potential 12-15 year Franchise QB while Peyton is going to be a stopgap for whoever gets him.
Washington isn’t a city Peyton would choose to play in due to the sorry state of that offense and he probably doesn’t want to face off against his brother twice a year in the NFC East.
Arizona, while further along in rebuilding than Washington, is still at least a year away from contending with the back-slapping coach’s resurgent 49’ers in the way. A wild-card would be their best hope the first season.
Seattle has the same divisional hump Arizona has, but more overall talent. Ironically, Arizona’s offense is better right now. Sidney Rice can’t stay healthy and Mike Williams managed to save his career, but isn’t dominant. The Wayne “package” might be welcome in Seattle.
There are too many problems with being in New York and sharing the spotlight with his brother, and I don’t think it has to do with egos. Quite the contrary, both Mannings seem like honorable guys and don’t want to compete against each other unless it’s actually in a Super Bowl. Of all the teams listed here, the Jets are the one headed the wrong way the quickest. Rex Ryan could be on the hotseat with another sub-par season but he’s more likely on a 2-year leash for now. I’m not sure Manning would like working with a coach as “unreserved” as T-Rex, so that’s another consideration.
This brings us back to Miami (hat tip to the Blues Brothers). Owner Bobby Ross wants a Peyton Manning to help fill up seats for one thing. For another, he’s in a “win-now” mentality. He said he wanted a “young Don Shula” as his Head Coach, someone with visibility as well as a vision and since Cowher and Gruden stayed out of coaching, Joe Philbin is probably the next best thing as Jeff Fisher was really the only big name coach seeking a job. Philbin ran the Packers vaunted offense and Miami has fewer holes to fill on that side of the ball than the other teams do. If they go into the April draft knowing they have Manning in the bag, they’ll likely draft the best player available, hoping that Reilly Reiff, maybe Cordy Glenn or perhaps Quentin Coples will still be there. Coples will give their new-look 4-3 Defense the most talented pass-rusher in the draft, and Manning’s presence along with the energy of the new staff would surely get the rookie’s motor going. The rest of the draft would be for a RT then, depending on whether or not Reggie Wayne arrives as well, and and upgrade over Anthony Fasano at TE. So that’s a DE, RT, TE, and an OG for good measure, leaving 3 other open spots to help shore up their defense. With help at SLB and FS, the Dolphins could possibly push the Patriots for the division title, and it would be sweet revenge for Peyton Manning to beat Tom Brady into a Wild Card or out of the playoffs completely. With Joe Philbin’s new regime in Miami wanting Peyton Manning, I’m not so sure what that says about Matt Flynn. It could be a case of trying to get a Super Bowl this season or next while looking for a QB in the draft next season to groom.
But the question shouldn’t really be “What team wants Peyton Manning the Most,” the question should be “What team does Peyton Manning want to play for the most?”
Right now, the answer to that one would seem to be the Miami Dolphins, with Seattle running a fairly close second.