NFL Rumors: Where Will Peyton Manning Play in 2012?

Bob FoxContributor IFebruary 7, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 08:  Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts looks to pass against the New York Jets during their 2011 AFC wild card playoff game at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 8, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Jets won 17-16. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The ongoing situation with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts regarding whether or not he will remain with the team is looking a lot like the messy divorce that Brett Favre and the Green Bay Packers had in 2008.

Back in the summer of 2008, Favre, his agent Bus Cook and others in Brett's camp would say one thing, while the Packers, led by Mark Murphy, Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy, would say another. 

It all led to Favre being eventually traded to the New York Jets, as the Packers had determined the Aaron Rodgers era was about to begin and the Favre era had run its 16-year course in Green Bay.

I get that same feeling as Manning and folks like his dad Archie say one thing, while the owner of the Colts, Jim Irsay, says another.

In Favre's case, the three-time NFL MVP decided he wanted to return to the NFL after retiring a few months earlier. The Packers decided that the train had already left the station.

In Manning's case, the situation is all about the neck injury that caused the four-time NFL MVP to miss the entire 2011 season.

Favre and Manning are interconnected in more than this scenario. Favre grew up as a fan of the New Orleans Saints and Archie Manning was one of the players he admired most.

Favre also set the NFL record for consecutive games started by a QB when he started 297 straight games. That's over 18 years of starting games in the NFL.

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 4:    Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts watches the action in the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Guess who is right behind Favre in this iron man statistic? Peyton Manning...who started 208 consecutive games before he was forced to sit out the 2011 NFL season with his neck injury. Manning's streak included 13 straight seasons of starting at QB for the Colts.

So, what is the latest about Manning's future?

Former Colts coach Tony Dungy, who definitely should have insider information regarding this situation, said during the Super Bowl XLVI pre-game show that he spoke with owner Jim Irsay on Thursday night.  Dungy said that Irsay seemed to be stressed out regarding the question of whether to keep or cut Peyton. Dungy even said that Manning might be playing with a different team in 2012—an assertion he has never mentioned before.

We know that the Colts must decide whether or not to pay Manning $28 million on or before March 8th.  Right now, the speculation is that the Colts won't and they will move on to the Andrew Luck era, as the Colts are expected to select the Stanford QB with the first pick in the 2012 NFL Draft.

Manning and Irsay are supposed to meet later this week to discuss Manning's future in Indianapolis.  Besides the money issue, the big issue is the bull-in-the-china-shop scenario. Is Peyton healthy enough to play?

“Everything’s good to go," said Peyton's brother Eli, talking about the status of his brother's health. Eli was on Late Night with David Letterman on Monday night following the Super Bowl XLVI, where Manning led the New York Giants to a 21-17 win over the New England Patriots.

Plus last week, Chris Mortenson of ESPN said the Manning had been cleared to play by two doctors, including the doctor that performed his surgery.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - AUGUST 19:  Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts watches the action during the game against the Washington Redskins at Lucas Oil Stadium on August 19, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

After that report came out, we heard this...“Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts,” Irsay said early Friday on his Twitter page.

So...what is the bottom line about where Peyton will play in 2012?  The chances of playing again in Indianapolis seem to be shrinking by the minute, but the meeting this week should clear the air quite a bit regarding that situation.

What other teams might be interested in Peyton if he was made available as a free agent? The Miami Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross seem to be enamored with Manning. However, that interest might be a smoke screen for the the Dolphins' real QB interest—Matt Flynn—who played in the offense of new head coach Joe Philbin in Green Bay for four years.

That being said, Manning and his wife own a home in Miami.

The Washington Redskins might be the best fit for Peyton. Head coach Mike Shanahan has to be on a short leash, as the Redskins have compiled an 11-21 record over the last two years. Dan Snyder does not have a lot of patience with his head coaches. I doubt if Shanahan would be given a chance to develop a young rookie QB like Robert Griffin III if the Redskins were able to draft him.

Other teams that might be interested in Manning include the Cleveland Browns, the Seattle Seahawks, the New York Jets and the Arizona Cardinals. 

If Manning is indeed deemed healthy enough to play in 2012, Peyton will no doubt have plenty of suitors if the Colts do release the soon-to-be 36-year-old QB.

The reason is very apparent. Four NFL MVPs, one Vince Lombardi Trophy, plus 399 TD passes vs. 198 picks for 54,828 yards and a 94.9 career QB rating.

The ball is in your court, Mr. Irsay. A number of teams in the NFL are anxiously awaiting your decision.