Peyton Manning is no longer an Indianapolis Colt but where will he end up?
Manning is one of the greatest QB’s of all-time and is hitting free agency
The biggest question is how Peyton’s performance is after 4 surgeries. . .
The inevitable happened when Jim Irsay decided to cut Peyton Manning before owing the 4-time NFL MVP a $28 million roster bonus due March 8th. Irsay wanted to make sure that people knew it wasn’t about the money with Peyton but the NFL is a business and this was just a business decision. Peyton Manning is 35 years old and hitting free agency for the first time in his career after spending 14 seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. Manning is without a doubt the most prestigious free agent in NFL history and although he has Hall of Fame numbers he has a dark cloud following him. There were whispers last off-season about his abilities post-surgery and just how many surgeries he actually had. Now those whispers have turned into people shouting from the rooftops and know that it wasn’t 3 but rather 4 surgeries to his neck. These facts have people swearing that Peyton isn’t the same QB anymore. As crazy as it sounds people demand that Peyton proves he is capable of being a viable option in the future.
Peyton’s press-conference was emotional just as Brett Favre’s first retirement with the Packers, but for Manning this wasn’t him hanging up his cleats (it wasn’t for Favre either) rather it was just confirmation that his tenure with the Colts was over. Peyton handled the situation with as much class as you would expect from the southern gentleman and to nobody’s surprise it was difficult for him to hold in his emotions. He thanked the fans, the organization and the ownership before ensuring the media that he wasn’t done playing, that his press-conference wasn’t a retirement announcement, and that he was going to be looking for a new team to play for next season.
This is a QB who is just 21 passing TD’s away from tying Dan Marino for 2nd on the all-time passing TD leader list and just 110 from surpassing Brett Favre’s record 508. Manning has averaged over 31 TD passes in his last 3 seasons so if he were able to produce like that he could hold that record in under 4 seasons before he turns 40 years old. He’s also 17k+ yards away from Favre for the all-time passing yards record and that may take more than 4 seasons to surpass. He already has more regular season MVP’s than Favre or any other player in NFL history and for some reason he is hitting free agency. There has never been a player with Peyton’s type of numbers to make such a dramatic decision in the market but Indianapolis didn’t have much of a decision.
Peyton’s neck surgeries have made everyone question Manning although he had played in 208 consecutive games before missing all of the 2011 season. He has been nothing but reliable and now that there is speculation about his health some organizations are going to be wary about his health. I know that many of you are confused because after Rob Lowe’s Twitter account claimed that Manning was going to retire. You know Rob Lowe, the actor with absolutely no personal ties to Manning. It amazes me how quickly rumors fly around and how fast people are to believe and spread said rumor like Herpes at the Jersey Shore in the summertime. Manning will not be retiring despite Number Two’s social media proclamation and the biggest question in football is ‘Where will Peyton Land?’
There should be interest in Peyton Manning by all but 8-10 teams but realistically there are just a few spots that #18 could land. Clearly Manning wants to go to a team where he can win and he’s shown that it doesn’t take much around him to produce a regular season standout. Manning plays incredibly well during the regular season but his success in the postseason has been limited going 3-4 in both the Wild Card and Divisional round of the playoffs. Manning doesn’t like change and luckily for him both Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon are free agents as well, meaning if a team has decent cap space and a mediocre defense they could add a few ponies to their stable and start a new era. The teams that fit that scenario are few and far between but there are a handful of teams still in the running a few days after Manning hit the market.
The NFL free agency doesn’t officially start until Tuesday and it is very likely that Manning could have already chosen his new team. Many thought about the possibility of having both Manning brothers playing in the same city if Peyton would join the Jets. It’s hard for me to believe that Peyton would respect a Head Coach like Rex Ryan. The lackadaisical buddy-buddy mentality of the colorful Ryan may be easier for the ol’ ball coach to allow Peyton into instituting an offense he’s comfortable with, not something the coach is used to. That rumor was all but squashed when the Jets decided to extend current Jets QB Mark Sanchez a couple more years for another $40 million, clearly he is their QB of the future and there is not enough room for 2 Mannings in NYC.
There has been speculation that Manning could land among one of these teams Miami, Kansas City, Seattle, Tennessee, Arizona and Denver. Kansas City is the least likely scenario because the Chiefs play their home games outside in the Midwest and Peyton doesn’t fare well under those circumstances. Peyton has played his home games in a dome in the heart of the country and as the temperature drops outside so does his QB Rating. He has played in a few more games indoors than outdoors but Peyton has thrown the same amount of interceptions despite the 14 game difference and has thrown 61 more TD passes in games played inside away from abysmal winter weather conditions during the latter months of the football season.
Seattle could be a good landing spot for Manning despite being an open aired stadium, because they have the money to bring in some of Peyton’s former targets. Not only could they lure Wayne and Garcon but they are coached by Pete Carrol who would be contempt allowing someone of Peyton’s caliber to run the offense. The problem is that Peyton and his agent have both said they would much rather play in the AFC than the NFC. It could be that Peyton doesn’t want to battle against his brother for a playoff spot or that he feels comfortable with the opposition he has faced in that conference for 14 years.
The Tennessee Titans owner has come out and declared that he wants Peyton Manning as the QB of his team not Matt Hasselbeck or the young Jake Locker. Bud Adams has contacted Manning’s agent himself multiple times and is pushing for the former Tennessee Volunteer to make a stop in Nashville before making a decision. “He is the man I want. Period, and the people that work for me understand that. They know who I want. I want Mr. Manning with the Titans and I will be disappointed if it doesn’t happen.” Adams told the press. It would make sense for Manning to stay not only in conference but also in division facing the same teams and punishing Irsay and the Colts twice a year every year. I am intrigued by Adams’ call for landing Manning but if it were me I would much rather play for the Texans that the Titans if I was going to stay in the AFC South.
Miami is a team that plays outdoors but they also play in southern Florida where the weather conditions aren’t at all similar to the Midwest in late October thru January. Miami and their owners are looking for a franchise player and Brandon Marshall can’t seem to shake off all that crazy. They have a new head coach, Joe Philbin, but I believe that works against Manning landing in South Beach. Philbin was the Green Bay Packers Offensive Coordinator last season and this is his first head coaching gig in the NFL. It seems unlikely that Philbin would like to give away control of his team’s offense to his QB, even if it is Peyton Manning. Philbin seems much more likely to get the Dolphins to sign former Packers backup QB Matt Flynn.
The only NFC team that I think Peyton Manning could play for is the Arizona Cardinals, where he would be playing in a warm weather state with a stadium that has a retractable roof. He would be joining a team with one of the best WR’s in the game, Larry Fitzgerald, and a defense that is filled with promise. Peyton has already spent 6.5 hours at the Cardinals facility over the weekend and clearly they are one of the front-runners but do they have the money. Arizona has already given a QB a big contract just last season but instead of signing a future Hall of Famer they got Kevin Kolb and all his problems from the Philadelphia Eagles. It seems unlikely that any other team would be willing to give up much more than a bag of balls for Kolb’s services after a pathetic season last year and the Cardinals would likely have to take a hit against the salary cap to cut him.
I can’t believe I’m writing this but I think the most likely place that Peyton Manning ends up playing next season is in Denver for the Broncos. I know that Mile High Stadium is outdoor in cold weather climate but I believe that with John Elway and John Fox seeing an opportunity to land a ‘true’ QB and get rid of Tebowmania they might just do it. The Broncos have a great running game and solid defense but with Tim Tebow the offense struggled to pass the ball despite making it to the playoffs. Peyton could come to Denver and play with a respected coach who would allow him to do what he thrives at offensively. The Broncos organization could trade Timmy Tebow to somewhere like the Jacksonville Jaguars and still have room to bring in Reggie Wayne. The Broncos could completely revamp their offense and come into next season with a totally different style of play.
Peyton Manning could end up at any one of these teams but the indications are that he is most likely to land in Denver or Arizona. I wouldn’t however rule out Tennessee and Seattle just yet and want everyone to remember the Asomugha situation from last year, the Philadelphia Eagles came out of nowhere to sign him. I wouldn’t be surprised if some last minute push is made by one of these teams if not another surprise team like the Vikings or 49ers. I do think that no matter where Peyton lands that Reggie Wayne or Pierre Garcon will soon be following. Manning needs to have something he is comfortable with on his new team and either WR could become great complimentary pieces to any of these offenses. The real question is still whether or not Peyton can play at a high level and he may need to do more than working out at Duke University. It will be interesting to see where Peyton lands, how he looks in his new uniform and how well he plays next season.