With the news of his release from the Indianapolis Colts seemingly only hours away, the debate about Peyton Manning's next team has gathered serious momentum. Naturally, the Washington Redskins are in the mix. Although the move would make plenty of people, including this author, nervous, Manning to D.C. could actually make a lot of sense.
This author previously wrote an article arguing that Mike Shanahan could not move for the Colts legend. This was based on the reasoning that signing a soon-to-be 36-year-old with major health concerns would contradict the idea that Shanahan is building the Redskins with an emphasis on youth.
However, where Manning actually makes sense is when the argument shifts to the notion that the Redskins are only a quarterback short of being a contender. Shanahan himself seemed to support this view when he proclaimed the Redskins are not far off, despite their 5-11 record.
This leads to the central decisive factor behind any Redskins move for Manning. If the team is indeed only a quarterback away from joining the league's elite, Shanahan may be best served bringing in a proven veteran.
If the Redskins are on the cusp of being competitive, they need a quarterback who is ready and able to succeed from day one. Enduring the development and potential struggles of a rookie risks holding back those units on the team ready to produce now.
Opting for a rookie implies that Shanahan believes the Redskins are still a couple of seasons away from being legitimate contenders. In this scenario Shanahan has to believe that he has the time to develop a youthful passer into a polished NFL signal-caller, despite posting only 11 wins in two seasons.
Should the Redskins pursue Peyton Manning or draft their starter?
If the Redskins are primed to contend then Manning's experience, confidence and quality can make the decisive difference now. His health is an obvious concern, but a certain amount of trust must be given in assuming that if the Redskins did sign Manning, they would be satisfied about his ability to play in 2012.
His presence would make Roy Helu and Evan Royster better, granting them more openings with defenses naturally concentrating their efforts on containing Manning. Then there is the partnership between a passer as accurate and bold as Manning and arguably the NFL's best young tight end Fred Davis.
The Redskins could certainly use an elite wideout, but while the current receivers may lack explosion, they are certainly not amongst the league's worst groups. Manning would certainly make them more dangerous.
Ultimately any decision regarding a Redskins' pursuit of Manning will come down to how close Shanahan and Bruce Allen really believe they are to producing a playoff-caliber team. In a year where the rookie option seems to be Robert Griffin III or bust in the eyes of many, the Redskins hierarchy could decide Manning is the best option.