2012 NFL Draft: How Peyton Manning Could Leave St. Louis Rams Holding the Bag

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMarch 7, 2012

ST. LOUIS, MO - OCTOBER 25: Quarterback Peyton Manning #18 of the Indianapolis Colts calls the play at the line against the St. Louis Rams at the Edward Jones Dome on October 25, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Tuesday's announcement that the Indianapolis Colts have scheduled a press conference for Wednesday to announce the release of quarterback Peyton Manning has sent shock waves across the National Football League that may continue right up until April's NFL draft.

The four-time MVP is the crown jewel of free agency on the offensive side of the ball, and which team acquires Manning's services could have a huge impact on the market for the second overall pick presently held by the St. Louis Rams, a pick that will presumably be dealt by the Rams to a team looking to select Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.

Of the three teams rumored to be the front-runners for the "Griffin pick," the Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins are also two of the teams that have been most linked to Manning, and should the 14-year veteran land in South Florida or the nation's capital it could completely change the complexion of the early part of April's draft and what the Rams could expect to receive in return for trading down.

Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is said to be very enamored with Manning, and as the NFL Network's Albert Breer tweeted Tuesday the Dolphins may already be making plans to pitch Manning on joining the Dolphins.

Dolphins have discussed Manning at length, and of course the owner is enthusiastic. Medical/monetary elements will be scrutinized.

— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 7, 2012

If the Dolphins do land Manning, the Rams can likely breathe a sigh of relief, as the Washington Redskins don't appear to be overly interested in fellow free-agent signal-caller Matt Flynn of the Green Bay Packers, so missing out on Manning would probably motivate Daniel Snyder to do whatever it takes to obtain the Griffin pick, price tag be damned.

However, if the Redskins are able to convince Peyton Manning to join younger brother Eli in the NFC East, the Rams may be in trouble. The Dolphins, fearful of being outbid by another team for the second pick and reportedly reluctant to deal with the Rams after head coach Jeff Fisher spurned the Dolphins for St. Louis, may turn to Flynn as a Plan B of sorts, an interesting option given Flynn's prior relationship with Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin, as the Palm Beach Post points out: "Flynn, who has nine touchdown passes and two interceptions in two career starts, played the last four seasons under Joe Philbin, who was the Packers' offensive coordinator until becoming Miami's head coach in January."

Manning to Washington and Flynn to Miami could create a worst-case scenario for the Rams, as the lone remaining suitor for the second overall pick of the "big three" that have been mentioned, the Cleveland Browns, have apparently taken the 22nd pick in the first round off the table, meaning the king's ransom the Rams were hoping to land for the second pick may be shrinking by the day.

It's even possible that should things develop in this manner that the Rams could find themselves in a scenario where it makes more sense for them to stand pat and choose USC offensive tackle Matt Kalil than it does to deal the pick at all, at which point it would be the Minnesota Vikings' turn to play Monty Hall, although their haul would likely be nowhere near what some expected Griffin's rights to eventually fetch.

Much of this is complete conjecture, and the Peyton Manning circus has only just begun, but it turns out that the two teams that may have the most to gain or lose depending on where Manning plays in 2012 have no real interest in signing Manning themselves.