As many have heard by now Peyton Manning is no longer an Indianapolis Colt. Let that first line sink in for a moment.
Good? Lets continue.
Now that the inevitable has happened the question, naturally, is who are the major players in the Manning sweepstakes. The usual suspects come to mind and for obvious reasons, most assume he will end up in Miami, Washington, Kansas City or New York because those teams currently have vacancies (in the Jets case we will consider it more question mark than vacancy) at quarterback and they have money to spend on one of Manning’s ilk.
That being said there are a lot more factors in play now that Manning, who has donned the blue horseshoe on his helmet since being drafted out of Tennessee in 1998, is a free agent. Starting in a place many haven’t even truly considered important.
Before news broke of Manning being released many of the teams being floated as possible landing spots for Manning were looking to deal for the number two pick in this years draft currently held by the Rams. This is key for a number of reasons, one of which is the value of return on that pick should they still decide to trade it away. Do the Redskins, who were rumored to be the most bullish on that number two pick, now turn their attention and considerable resources to Manning? Do they pass up on Robert Griffin as a future starter for present gain? It would seem the perfect Dan Snyder move in bringing in Manning, but would it make sense? This question is critical because it is no secret the Redskins need a quarterback and should they lose out on Manning the price just got steeper for the rights to “RGIII.”
Then there’s Miami who, since Dan Marino retired, have watched one quarterback after the other try and fail to succeed on a consistent basis. If the Redskins sign Manning are the Dolphins the best match for a deal with St. Louis? Or, do they make their own run at Manning, and pair him with Brandon Marshall? While it may seem like a WR/QB combo made in heaven this would be the first time Manning would have to deal with a receiver that has a “diva” mentality in his career. Not so sure how that would go in South Beach.
Kansas City seems to make logical sense because they, in my view, have the pieces in place to make Manning an instant winner. Particularly in a division that was won by an (8-8) Broncos squad last year. Being able to immediately take pressure off of Manning with a running back tandem of Jamal Charles and Dexter McCluster is a bonus, and the recently franchised Dwayne Bowe would give Manning a true number one target. We all know Manning wants to win at any stage of his career, but putting him in a situation with young established pieces such as Kansas City seems the real ideal fit.
So with Manning sure to coax a bidding war where does that leave Cleveland? Does Cleveland jump in on Manning or do they continue to be suitors for the number two pick by giving up two first-rounders of their own? Not to mention there are teams in Arizona and Seattle who have their own issues at quarterback and would love a crack at Manning. I see those two clubs as outside chance/long shot scenarios. Cleveland would have to pay a steep price to get the pick it covets and I’m not sure that Mike Holmgren (yep, he’s the guy calling those shots) would be willing to fully invest.
So that brings everything back to St. Louis. They could be the forgotten belle of the ball by no fault of their own. Of course Manning is now the top prize and whoever doesn’t land him will come knocking again. But what does that do for Jeff Fisher and his preparations to move forward on rebuilding this franchise behind Sam Bradford?
Manning has the fate of six franchises and a future top-10 pick in his hands. While he will be missed in Indy, and Indy will miss him, he has options and he’s going to be just fine.