Let me start off by saying this: I am not a Denver Broncos fan.
I know fans of various teams will spout off randomly about how Adrian Peterson is definitely going to be traded to the Washington Redskins, or how the Jacksonville Jaguars will fill their wide receiver needs by trading for Calvin Johnson. Sorry, but no. This is not one of those articles, because I am not a Broncos fan; in fact, I am a Seattle Seahawks fan—but that is beside the point.
The point is, Peyton Manning’s best realistic situation lies in Denver, and he, along with everybody else, needs to know it.
Manning’s current hot destination spots include places like Washington, New York, Miami, Arizona, etc. Nobody is even talking about the Broncos. Reports from NFL insider Adam Schefter say that Manning’s top choice might even be Tennessee. This is why Manning-to-Denver most likely won’t happen as we look at the situation today.
However, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen. Here’s why:
Because of Manning’s multiple neck surgeries over the past 12 months, it would be ideal for him to go to a place where he could be protected as much as possible. With elite left tackle Ryan Clady solidifying the blindside, the offensive line that led the way for the best rushing offense in the league last season would be ideal for Manning to line up behind.
Manning isn’t at 100 percent right now, and it’s very possible that he never again will be. This is why he will ideally need a solid run game to take the pressure off him.
As previously mentioned, Denver’s rushing offense led the league in yardage last year with Willis McGahee and Knowshon Moreno. With Moreno coming back at a presumed 100 percent next year, Manning will have a solid and consistent rushing attack behind him for the first time in his career.
The presence of such a strong running game will also put Manning less at risk for injury because it will take the ball out of his hands for more plays as well as slow down the opposing pass rush.
Reports out of Indianapolis have been that Manning has consistent accuracy throwing the football but still has to work on developing his arm strength. This is why the talent that surrounds Manning next season will be more important than ever.
In Denver, young stars Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker proved last season to have enormous potential. Both of these receivers are similar-type players who are big-bodied and can create yardage after the catch. The latter of these traits will be conducive to Manning’s possible weaker-armed playing style next year and will enable him to throw those shorter routes and still gain significant yardage.
Where do you think Manning should go, assuming he hits free agency?
Also, if free-agent slot receiver Eddie Royal returns to Denver next season, Manning’s presence should elevate Royal’s play back up to the 90-plus-catch season he had in his rookie year.
Young tight ends Julius Thomas and Virgil Green provide gargantuan, athletic targets that will provide receiving options on shorter routes that Manning will be forced to throw as his arm and neck heal.
In Indianapolis, ex-general manager Bill Polian did an ingenious job throughout the years as he created an identity for the team through his personnel decisions. The Colts offense and defense worked together like clockwork: Peyton Manning and his surrounding weapons—whether it was Reggie Wayne, Marvin Harrison Dallas Clark, or others—would put the team up by a significant margin of points.
Consequently, defensive ends Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis didn’t have to worry about stopping the run anymore and could then do what they did best: Rush the passer.
These two defensive ends have combined for 82 sack-fumbles in their careers, which puts them both in the top 10 of all time and is also the most by a defensive end duo in NFL history. As evident, the defensive pass rush was a big part of the Indianapolis Colts’ game plan when Manning was there.
However, I would argue that the Broncos’ pass-rushing tandem of Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller is comparable and maybe even better than Freeney and Mathis are right now because of their respective ages. Therefore, I believe the game plan Manning has been successful with over the past decade—scoring a ton of points and then letting the pass rush take over late—will make Denver very successful.
Ah, yes. I just had to throw Timmy in here, didn’t I?
The Tebow question is perhaps the element that makes Manning less likely to sign with Denver—well, that and the likely enormous amount of money it would take to sign Manning.
Anyway, let’s be honest: Tim Tebow didn’t—in any way, shape, or form—look like an NFL passer last year. In the playoffs, even against the Patriots' generous pass defense, there was no way Tebow could even score enough points to make the game somewhat interesting.
When Tebow first came into this league, didn’t draft analysts say he would need three to four years of development before becoming an adequate NFL quarterback? Well, unless I have severe math problems, Tebow has only had two. So what better way to hone his game for the next year or two than sitting behind arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game?
Look, Manning’s probably not going to Denver. All signs point to Miami, New York, or Arizona. However, after seeing all of the strong points that Denver has to offer, how can you not say it would be at least as good a fit (if not better) than any of those other teams? The opportunity to turn your team around from a borderline joke—even though they made the playoffs last year, Tim Tebow still saw more than his fair share of harsh criticism—into a title contender doesn’t come around very often, and maybe never.
There is no denying that Manning would be an instant upgrade and, in a weak AFC West Division, all but guarantee a playoff berth for next season too. All the pieces are in place for Peyton Manning, and all Denver has to do is pull the trigger.