Where will Peyton Manning be playing football in 2012, or will he even playing football at all next season? On the surface, it seems surreal that Manning and the Indianapolis Colts find themselves in the upcoming predicament over what to do regarding the payment of a $28 million roster bonus that is due on March 8.
While we will at least know what the fate of Manning is in Indianapolis within the next four weeks, we will not know the outcome of what team he is going to play for, so we decided to try to figure out what teams with the greatest need for a starting quarterback are the best fit for Manning.
From Manning's perspective, assuming he is cut loose by the Colts, what will he look for in a new team? As per comments made by NFL analyst Adam Schefter of ESPN to the Mike and Mike radio show, Manning wants "stability, consistency, good offensive personnel, good coaching. He's looking for what a smart player would want."
In this presentation, we will sort through the teams that seem to have the most sincere and realistic interest in trying to land Manning to play for them in 2012, and one team that hasn't been very vocal yet, but probably should be.
According to this article by Mike Freeman of CBS Sports.com, there are skeptics out there in the NFL who think that Manning will miss the majority of the 2012 season due to the nerve issues in his surgically repaired neck, and then there is the worst case scenario that he will never play again.
While it is impossible for anyone to say unequivocally what Manning will do in 2012, we know that he continues to work hard at rehabbing every day and doing whatever he can to get better.
If you are interested in a little humor about the Manning situation, here is a link to a video segment from NFL Network called the "Wheel of Peyton."
We have observations made by people catching passes from Manning in workouts that told Michael Lombardi of NFL Network that Manning lacked zip on his passes and can't throw the ball to his left.
The only thing we know for sure is that Manning will continue to be a huge story throughout the 2012 offseason, so if you are getting sick of hearing about him, get used to it, because this is just the tip of the iceberg.
While his neck is apparently okay, it is the lack of nerves regenerating that is the real issue. To the extent that Manning can take a pounding on Sundays and not suffer any permanent damage is between Manning and his doctors. The last thing anybody wants to see is Manning suffer any kind of permanent damage, especially when he is essentially at a living legend status already.
What would have to happen for Peyton Manning to remain with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012?
First, let's begin from the medical perspective. For the Colts to even consider paying out the $28 million bonus due on March 8, they would need to have proof that the nerves have regenerated and that Manning is physically back to normal and can throw the ball like he did five years ago. The likelihood of all of that happening in less than a month is a major hurdle.
Then, you have to look at the pure economics of the situation. For Manning to be with the Colts in 2012, they would have to honor the contract that is in place, meaning that he receives his $28 million bonus as well as his base salary of $7 million.
Then you add in the base salary of $5 million for Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III (take your pick), and you are now up to $40 million on just the quarterback position alone. Good luck trying to fill out the rest of your roster and still fit that in to the salary cap. It just isn't feasible
Sure you would be assured of great quarterbacks on your team for the foreseeable future, but as we illustrated with the pure dollars and cap issues, you would have a number of holes in your roster where you had to pay somebody next to nothing and that is a problem.
Then there is the situation with the other quality free agents that are pending in Indianapolis in 2012. From Robert Mathis to Reggie Wayne to Pierre Garcon, they are all going to want to get paid the market rate, so how do you sign them? You wouldn't be able to.
Odds that Manning stays with the Colts: 1 in 20.
The San Francisco 49ers are my surprise entry on this list of teams. There has been no speculation that I have read so far linking Peyton Manning to the 49ers, so this slide is purely thinking outside of the box. Obviously Manning would be a huge upgrade over Alex Smith, and the 49ers appear to have the salary cap room to make a move like this to try to put them over the top.
According to this article from the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the 49ers are thought to be one of the teams that are in position to be aggressive in free agency. The article estimates the 49ers' current cap to be $102.9 million with the salary cap for 2012 being estimated to be in the $121 million to $125 million range.
Picture Manning with the 49ers. They have a solid running game. They have a top-five NFL defense. They play in a warmer climate. He would only have to face Eli once every three years unless the Giants and 49ers were playing each other in the playoffs.
This move would all but guarantee that the 49ers would be atop the NFC West for however many years that Manning has left to play in the NFL. While the rest of the NFC West is doing their best to improve their organizations, the division is one where Manning has a realistic shot at enjoying a run in the playoffs every year, which is a good selling point.
The 49ers would have to beef up their wide receivers to attract Manning, but they clearly have a top tight end that Manning would love to throw to in Vernon Davis.
There is the Indianapolis connection, as Jim Harbaugh, the 49ers coach, was the starting quarterback at Indianapolis for years, and was the same team where he earned the nickname Captain Comeback. Not sure that he would be slapping Manning's shoulder pads to the same degree that he hits Alex Smith before games though.
One thing you would know for sure is that in the playoffs, Manning would be completing more than just one pass to a wide receiver, which is the sad story of what Smith managed to accomplish against the New York Giants secondary in the NFC championship game.
I realize that this is a long shot, but I am throwing it out there for your consideration.
Odds that Manning joins the 49ers: 1 in 20.
The Arizona Cardinals will face a similar situation as the Colts do with Peyton Manning in that they will have to pay out $7 million to Kevin Kolb, who has a bonus that kicks in on March 17. Will there be enough progress with Manning's nerve regenerating by then? Probably not.
Some Arizona Cardinals fans think that it is crazy for this pairing to even be considered, especially when you recall how much it cost the Cardinals to bring in Kolb last year.
According to comments from Chris Mortensen of ESPN, he believes the Cardinals are not one of the top two choices for Manning, as he thinks that would be Miami and Washington.
The Cardinals have just hired Frank Reich as a position coach, and due to their history together in Indianapolis, it is thought that this development could be considered a bonus for the Cardinals' chances of landing Manning.
This article in Arizona Sports.com refers to comments by John Clayton from ESPN stating that he suspects Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill will balk at signing Manning after shelling out big money for Kolb last offseason. While that may be true, trying to justify going with Kolb over Manning is unfathomable, especially if you are trying to convince your fans that you are doing everything you can do to put a winning team on the field.
"They were not cheap in anything they did in last offseason," Clayton said. "They put a lot of money out in the Kevin Kolb trade. I just don't know if they're ready to say goodbye to Kevin Kolb in one year."
To further complicate things, there is a new story that surfaced from AZ Central.com by beat writer Kent Somers that states the bonus money was overblown by Kolb's agents and the bottom line is that the Cardinals can escape from the Kolb contract easier than was originally reported.
Though Kolb's guaranteed money was reported as $21 million when he signed his six-year contract last July, only $12 million was guaranteed for both skill and injury.
Odds that Manning joins the Cardinals: 1 in 20.
I consider the Seattle Seahawks to be a longer shot for where Peyton Manning will land because of several reasons. As we stated in the opening slide of the presentation, Manning wants to see consistency and good offensive personnel on the team that he selects. I think this is where the Seahawks fall short.
The Seahawks offense has been ranked No. 28 overall in both 2011 and 2010. Well, that is pretty consistent. They have been ranked No. 23 in scoring offense the last two straight years as well (20.1 points in 2011 and 19.4 points in 2010). The passing offense the last two years has been ranked No. 22 and No. 19 respectively, while the run offense has been ranked No. 21 and No. 31 in the last two years.
The other aspect that Manning is looking for is consistency, and in this aspect the Seahawks fail miserably. Manning threw to Marvin Harrison for years until he retired, and then he had Reggie Wayne to throw to.
Consider the leading wide receivers in Seattle for every season from 2006 to present: Darrell Jackson (2006), Bobby Engram (2007), John Carlson (2008), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (2009), Mike Williams (2010) and Doug Baldwin (2011). The problem is that it is always somebody different every year. Receivers either don't stay in Seattle long enough or can't stay healthy to be able to have a steady bond or chemistry with their quarterback from one year to the next. No wonder Matt Hasselbeck left.
Not only that, but in the past two years the Seahawks have only had one receiver top 500 yards in receptions. That goes to show the lack of depth of offensive talent and why Seattle would be a low choice on the list.
You might ask yourself why are we even bothering to list the Seahawks as an option? Well, we do believe that they want to upgrade at quarterback over Tarvaris Jackson. The other factor is that the other suitors might have found their solution to their quarterback situation in the draft or taken care of it in free agency. If the nerves don't regenerate fast enough, other teams might have moved on and addressed their needs. Seattle could be the last team standing in line and win the prize.
Odds that Manning joins the Seahawks: 1 in 20.
Talk about a wild situation. Is New York City big enough to hold two Mannings? Every day would be a field day for the crazed media in New York, talking about which Manning is better, which one had the better game that week, etc. The possibilities are endless.
But what about the prospect of Peyton Manning joining the New York Jets? If you ignore the media buzz that another Manning in New York City would create, you have to wonder about the fit. The Jets have a solid defense and a decent running game with 1,000-yard rusher Shonn Greene. Of their four leading receivers from 2011, two of them are not expected to be back with the team, LaDainian Tomlinson and Plaxico Burress.
The other two, tight end Dustin Keller and Santonio Holmes, will be on board, but the Jets would have to add some other weapons to truly pique Manning's interest.
Some of the factors going against Manning to the Jets would be the new direction of the offense. The Jets hired Tony Sparano as offensive coordinator to return to the days of pounding the ball on the ground, so you are going to bring in Peyton Manning to hand the ball off? You also have the issue of what would you do with Mark Sanchez? Is he your backup, do you trade him or dump him?
Then there is the aspect of the elements. Manning has played inside of a dome for the past 14 years and now you are going to have him play on the East Coast in December and January? Sure, it's a minor consideration, but it would be a factor, just like everything else, when you add up all the issues.
We don't know how Manning would exactly get along with Rex Ryan. There is no doubt that Ryan respects Manning and has even gushed about him in the past. Manning has been playing for the likes of Jim Mora, Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell. Not exactly in the Rex Ryan mold.
The Jets do have coach Tom Moore on staff, and that is a selling point for sure in the Jets favor. But is that enough? Manning must have either heard or read about all of the issues that have been retold about the Jets locker room problems and will add that into his evaluation. Right now I don't like the Jets' chances very much.
Odds that Manning joins the Jets: 1 in 20.
Can you see Peyton Manning playing for Mike Shanahan? If the answer to that question is yes, then what would the Redskins have to do to be able to become so attractive to Manning that he signs on the dotted line?
According to this article from the Washington Examiner, one of the things that Peyton would have to accept is that he would be squaring off against brother Eli twice a year. Whenever they have done that in the past, it has been described as a "tough" game for Peyton to play. Would he want to go through the media blitz that event would cause twice a year? If you are looking for an example, think about the Thanksgiving spectacle of John and Jim Harbaugh coaching against each other.
The Washington Examiner article also states that there are a number of issues that need to be resolved for Manning to join the Redskins. Coach Shanahan would have to change his offense around to fit Manning. The Redskins would have to add some major weapons at wide receiver to make the offense more appealing. The offensive line would also have to be improved.
As we cited earlier with the Jets, Manning would have to deal with the East Coast weather in December and January.
With all of those strikes against Washington, there is this report from CBS Sports that claims many people around the league believe that the Redskins will land Manning. Coach Shanahan does have a strong track record of working well with veteran quarterbacks (John Elway) and that would be appealing to Manning. Then you factor in owner Daniel Snyder and his willingness to spend money to make things happen for the Redskins franchise.
The more I think about this situation, I pick the Redskins as one of the two favorites to land Manning.
Odds that Manning joins the Redskins: 1 in 4.
For the time being, the Miami Dolphins are considered to be the favorite team to land Peyton Manning. That is because Dolphins owner Stephen Ross (no, not Jennifer Lopez—she is just a minority owner) is enamored with the prospect of Manning running the Dolphins offense.
As per this story by Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, the Dolphins think they are the best bet to land Manning. Ross is prepared to show patience and wait as long as it takes for Manning to become healthy, and then he will sign him. If Manning's nerve starts to regenerate prior to the NFL draft in April, all the better.
For a player that is trying to recuperate from three neck surgeries, there is something to be said about playing football in a warm climate. In addition, the Dolphins do have a top wide receiver in Brandon Marshall to throw to, and Reggie Bush led a successful running game last year.
For what it is worth, here is an article from the South Florida Sun Sentinel that offers that the feelings between Manning and Miami are mutual, in that the Dolphins are one of the few teams that Manning is open to playing for.
The Dolphins haven't really had a great quarterback in Miami since Dan Marino retired, so it might take a big move like this to bring the Dolphins a quarterback that could make them an annual threat to go to the playoffs. Provided that Manning is healthy enough to play, of course.
For the Dolphins, the whole Manning issue is a gamble of sorts. Assuming that Manning becomes a free agent, do the Dolphins act on him immediately, or do they bring in a healthy Matt Flynn first for a workout? Do you shoot for the moon with Manning, and pass up on Flynn, or do you go with the healthy younger player?
If the Dolphins do go with Flynn, which is a distinct possibility due to his prior connection with head coach Joe Philbin, then what team does Manning join? Maybe there is another dark-horse contender out there that will surface later on.
Odds that Manning joins the Dolphins: 1 in 2.