With each passing day March 8 looms larger for Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, as that's the deadline for the team to decide whether or not to pay the quarterback a whopping $28 million roster bonus.
However, it appears that the Colts aren't going to wait until the last minute, as ESPN is reporting that the Colts will hold a news conference Wednesday to announce that they are releasing the four-time MVP.
That means that the floodgates will officially open as teams race to get the 14-year veteran on the phone and hopefully into the fold. Here are the teams with the best chance of making one of the biggest free-agent splashes in recent memory.
The Seahawks could offer Manning an attractive scenario. They have a young team with some fine skill players to put around him. They play in one of the league’s loudest stadiums. Manning wouldn’t be subject to the same kind of scrutiny in Seattle that he would in a lot of other markets.
The Seahawks also could have a better feel for Manning’s medical situation than some teams. One of their team physicians, Stan Herring, who also is one of the country’s preeminent specialists for spine injuries. Herring is a member of the NFL’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee.
However, given his pick of where he decides to make his last stand, I just have a hard time seeing Manning choosing Seattle over brighter lights and bigger bucks.
Odds of Signing Manning: 20/1
Starting quarterback Alex Smith is a free agent-to-be, San Francisco 49ers legend Jerry Rice thinks it's a great idea and a healthy Peyton Manning under center would make the 49ers even more of a favorite in the NFC than they already are.
However, Manning's health and price tag are considerable hurdles, and it's unknown whether head coach Jim Harbaugh would be comfortable giving Manning the free rein he'd likely demand.
Odds of Signing Manning: 15/1
On the surface, Manning to Miami may not make the most sense for the Dolphins, as new head coach Joe Philbin isn't overly keen on spending his first year in charge as a figurehead.
However, the only name that matters is the one that signs the checks. Dolphins owner Stephen Ross reportedly "wants" Manning, so Miami will likely be right in the thick of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.
Odds of Signing Manning: 10/1
The Washington Redskins have the cap space to make a serious run at Peyton Manning, and you know that owner Daniel Snyder is champing at the bit at the idea of adding such a prized piece to his favorite toy.
However, playing for Snyder is no picnic. The money Manning would get in D.C. might not be worth the headaches of playing under the spotlight in the nation's capital and answering questions about playing his little brother twice a year.
Odds of Signing Manning: 8/1
The Kansas City Chiefs are actually in a very interesting position as far as pursuing Manning goes. The team has a ton of cap space, some young offensive weapons in wideout Dwayne Bowe and running back Jamaal Charles, and a rabid fanbase that would go gaga for Manning.
Factor in that Kansas City is a similar Midwestern, "blue collar" town to the environment that Manning has become accustomed to in Indy, and the Chiefs are likely one of the best fits.
Odds of Signing Manning: 5/1
This is the one I keep coming back to, possibly because I can't turn on the radio here in Phoenix without being bombarded with Peyton Manning speculation.
The Cardinals can offer a decent team with an all-world receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, great weather (don't think that's not a factor with athletes), a history of riding "retread" quarterbacks with successful results and a head coach in Ken Whisenhunt that wouldn't hesitate to give Manning the keys to the offense.
Add all those factors up, and although they may not be the leading candidate right now, I think that when Manning will try to pull a Kurt Warner with the Redbirds when the dust settles.
Imagine if Reggie Wayne follows...Manning, Fitzgerald, Wayne...touchdown!
Odds of Signing Manning: 4/1