After months of speculation that the Indianapolis Colts and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning would part ways this week, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that Peyton Manning’s release will be announced by the Indianapolis Colts in a press conference on Wednesday.
By the terms of Manning’s contract, he was set to receive a $28 million roster bonus if the Colts picked up the remaining four years of his contract. By deciding not to do so, Manning becomes a free agent, and will be eligible to be signed by any team immediately once he is released.
This news is breaking news in name only. With the Colts set to draft Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, a can’t-miss quarterback prospect, with the No. 1 overall draft selection in the 2012 NFL draft, they could not afford to pay Manning such a lofty roster bonus. This move had been expected for months, and its execution is merely a formality.
That said, this story has only begun. Once the release is official, the speculation of what team Peyton Manning plays for next will heat up rapidly.
The first and foremost question when it comes to Manning’s future is his health, and whether he will be able to return from neck surgery and become an elite NFL quarterback once again. While I think Manning’s days as a top-five NFL quarterback are likely over, rumors have it that he is finally getting healthy and getting his arm-strength back. I believe that if he has completed a full recovery from his neck injuries, Manning can return to being a top-10 quarterback for two to three more seasons, and be a big upgrade for one of many NFL teams under center.
If Peyton Manning is healthy, it goes without saying that there will be considerable interest in him from any team that could use an upgrade at the quarterback position. Manning is as great as any quarterback who has ever played the game of football, and could be the spark that a team needs to become a championship contender.
With many offers to choose from, the ball will end up in Manning’s court as to where he wants to finish out his career. My overwhelming belief is that his choice will be to play for the New York Jets.
Back on Dec. 18, I first tweeted about the prospects of Peyton Manning becoming a New York Jet.
If the Colts were to trade Peyton Manning, how about the New York Jets as a destination? How tremendous would that be for marketing?
— Dan Hope (@Dan_Hope) December 19, 2011
Since then, that sudden thought has become a confident theory. While it has since become clear that the Colts would have to release Manning, given his contract, rather than trade him, the latter of the tweet holds true.
First and foremost, Peyton Manning presumably wants to play for a team that can become an immediate Super Bowl contender. While Manning can make the Arizona Cardinals, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins or Washington Redskins better immediately, those teams are not a great quarterback away from contending next season.
The New York Jets took a step back last season, but can be a serious Super Bowl contender with the addition of Manning if he returns to form. The Jets do have other holes they need to fix on both sides of the football, but the biggest factor in their regression last season was subpar quarterback play by Mark Sanchez.
While the Jets have not shown any signs of wavering from Sanchez yet, he has not progressed considerably in his three NFL seasons, and the Jets should almost certainly have interest in making the upgrade to Manning if they have the opportunity to do so. Missing the playoffs last season was a big disappointment, and bringing in a healthy Peyton Manning is only going to make the team better and put them in position not only to return to the playoffs, but to be one of the top teams in the AFC.
Knowing Peyton Manning’s competitive drive and his desire to win another Super Bowl title, my inclination is that his ability to win another championship will be a major factor in where he decides to play next season. However, Manning is also a guy who is known for his on-camera commercial work as one of the most marketable athletes in professional sports. If Manning wants to increase his marketability, there is no better place to play than New York City.
In recent years, one cannot watch an entire NFL game without seeing Peyton Manning in at least one commercial. Manning is often featured in commercials for the products he endorses, including MasterCard, Sony, and Gatorade. Those companies, and other prospective companies who would consider paying Peyton for his endorsement, would certainly thrive with the opportunity to market Manning in the New York metropolitan market.
Going to New York City, the nation’s largest market, obviously increases Peyton’s marketability, but there is more to this increased marketability than the location change. You may have heard that the team that shares a stadium with the Jets, the New York Giants, won this year’s Super Bowl championship, led by Peyton’s younger brother, Eli Manning. Having the two brothers playing in the same city would be marketing gold.
The Manning brothers have already been featured together in commercials for Oreo and DirecTV, and their combined marketability would only increase with a second Super Bowl ring on Eli’s hand and the two brothers playing in the same stadium. The only potential drawback to this is that Peyton and Eli would not play each other in a regular-season game during the next three seasons unless the Jets and Giants meet in a Super Bowl. But I highly doubt that would stop marketers.
Additionally, Peyton Manning becoming a Jet would bring new life to the quarterback rivalry with Tom Brady that dominated the first decade of the NFL millennium. Brady plays for the New England Patriots, the Jets’ biggest rival, and a rivalry that has become very heated ever since former Jets head coach Eric Mangini was responsible for making the Patriots’ “Spygate” scandal public. Add Peyton to the Jets, and it can be almost guaranteed that the two teams will be playing at least one of their two games in primetime next season.
The writing has been on the wall—or at least on the news feed of my Twitter followers—for months. While there may be more rumored interest from the Cardinals, Dolphins and others, Manning to the Jets makes too much sense not to happen. The deal would be a perfect move for both sides.
For Peyton Manning, he would be going to the team that gives him the best chance to win a Super Bowl in the next few years, and increase his personal marketability even further. For the Jets, they can immediately become better as a team by upgrading to a future Hall of Fame quarterback. And bringing in Manning is certainly a move that would sell tickets and bring additional revenue to the franchise.
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