Since the end of the season, the key question for Miami has been about who will be their quarterback in 2012.
According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Manning and the Colts are expected to part ways, and will make an official announcement tomorrow afternoon at noon. The Miami Dolphins are considered the favorites to land Manning and have been since the end of the season.
It would just make too much sense for Miami to sign Manning, even though neck-fusion surgery does give me some reservations.
Since Manning will be released by the Colts, Miami won't have to wait until next Tuesday to sign him, and if they really wanted to could theoretically sign him right after the press conference. (I'm sure Dolphins fans already have the image of Stephen Ross and Jeff Ireland in their private jet en route to Indianapolis with their contract offer in hand ready to have Peyton sign it as soon as he steps of the dais in his press conference. Ross probably will have special pens made just for the contract signing.)
Signing Manning also likely means the possibility of signing long-time Colts center Jeff Saturday and wide receiver and former Miami Hurricane Reggie Wayne. With the Saturday signing, Mike Pouncey can move over to right guard, strengthening a right side of the Dolphins offensive line which was just plain offensive. With Wayne in tow, Brandon Marshall and either Davone Bess or Brian Hartline (one of those guys will be gone this off-season if Manning comes and brings Wayne with him--actually there's a good chance one of those guys might be gone anyways) will see less defensive pressure due to secondaries having to pay attention to Wayne as well as Marshall and Hartline/Bess.
Anthony Fasano and Charles Clay would also likely see their catches go up as they will be used in the same way that he's used Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme in his last three seasons.
Throw in Reggie Bush (a running back that could easily turn a five-yard Manning pass into a 50-yard touchdown), and Daniel Thomas (the power back that showed potential last season however saw his carries and production decline as Bush improved as a between the tackles running back), and you have one scary offense brewing; one that could do a decent job of keeping up with New England (and could easily outscore a Jets offense that will be filled with fist-pumps and field goals).
As for the defense: if the Dolphins sign Manning, defense will be the name of the game on draft day. Miami will likely trade out of the number eight pick in the first round to possibly add an additional second round pick. From there expect them to draft a pass rushing DE and solidify their depth on defense and along the offensive line. However they will also likely look for a quarterback in the draft that can sit behind Manning for the next three years and learn under him. Between Peyton Manning, new head coach Joe Philbin, and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, Miami's next QB after Manning will likely get a first class education in playing quarterback in the NFL.
Of course, if Manning signing with Miami winds up being a bust--still a good possibility--Miami will set themselves back by three years if they sign him. I'm still on the fence about this possibility mainly because of their not-so-great luck with quarterbacks. With a healthy Manning, the sky is the limit for the next three season. An unhealthy Manning however could be disaster as the Dolphins slip further into irrelevancy.
But if this succeeds, the Dolphins not only become relevant, but are also the NFL's feel-good story of 2012. Automatically they'd become a draw not just in South Florida but everywhere else.
A healthy Manning will also likely be more motivated than he has been in the last five years. Peyton will be eager to show himself (as well as everyone else) that he is still a top-flight NFL quarterback. He has familiarity with the schedule, which includes Tom Brady and the Patriots twice, the Jets (the last team he played against) twice, as well as the fact that the entire AFC South is on Miami's schedule next season--including a trip to Indianapolis in a game that will very likely be either a Sunday, Monday, or Thursday Night game early in the season.
There is a lot to cheer for, yet a lot to worry about with Manning going to the Dolphins. The only certainty is that if Manning signs with Miami, it will be entertaining and interesting the entire time. It will either be Miami's most massive success in a decade, or another in a long string of failures.
I'm banking on the former, but still have my reservations. Either way, it will be a fun ride once we find out, and is actually a gamble worth taking.
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