The Indianapolis Colts officially released Peyton Manning Wednesday after the two sides decided to part ways, according to ESPN's Chris Mortenson. Colts GM Jim Irsay cited salary cap issues, and a rebuilding franchise as the primary reasons for the release.
The release comes as no surprise, but it means the 14-year veteran will find himself in a new uniform for the first time in his illustrious career.
According to NFL Network's Jason La Canfora, Manning has already been contacted by the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Seattle Seahawks, and Washington Redskins. Many in media circles have speculated that Peyton Manning would be a good fit in the Bay Area playing for the San Francisco 49ers. The speculation could possibly be a great fit. The 49ers biggest weakness is their wide receivers and offensive line. Mannng has the uncanny ability to make average wide receivers look like All-Pros. He also has played behind a less-than-stellar offensive line his whole career and has managed to succeed. As one of the top defensive units in the league, the addition of Manning to the offense could make the 49ers an instant Superbowl favorite.
However, according to head coach Jim Harbaugh, who was once-upon-a-time a Colts quarterback (and played the last game for the Colts before Manning), the pursuit of Manning will not be happening.
The 49ers plan to bring back veteran Alex Smith, who surprised plenty of skeptics last season, taking the team to the NFC Championship Game. He was even called an elite quarterback by coach Harbaugh. However, Smith is also a free agent, and an extension is taking longer than warranted. Harbaugh seemingly expects and openly wants Smith to be in a 49er uniform come training camp.
"Yeah, Alex [Smith] is our guy," Harbaugh said. "He had a tremendous season. Definitely, as a coach you worry about a lot of things and when a quarterback is not signed and he is a free agent, that leads to some lost sleep," Harbaugh told CSN Bay Area's Matt Maiocco.
In an interview with KNBR, 49ers GM Trent Baalke did not entertain any speculation to the possibility of signing Manning. "We haven't had Peyton in here, nor are we even talking about those things internally right now." Baalke continued, "Is he going to play? I don't know. That's for the doctors to make the decision on and for him."
With Manning apparently out of the question for the 49ers, the focus goes back to re-signing Smith. Early in the off-season, it was reported that Smith was looking for a deal in the $8-$12 million dollar range. However, it now appears that the contract negotiations are more complicated than previously expected.
According to Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee, the 49ers have extended an offer for Smith which has been the table for a while now. However, Smith appears to want a longer deal with more guaranteed money than the 49ers offered.
It has been rumored Smith was looking for "elite quarterback money," but there is little evidence to support that and no details on the contract offer have been released.
Although the contract is taking longer than expected, both parties remain confident a deal will be struck. "I think so," Smith told The Arizona Republic Saturday. "It's just a process. It takes some time. It will get done."
There will be little demand for Smith's services outside of the 49ers in the free agency market, and surely no one will be willing to offer him what the 49ers already have.
The 49ers continue to try to address their other free agents, while trying to get a deal done with Smith. Today the 49ers tendered linebacker Larry Grant, who will now be a restricted free agent. Grant plays behind All-Pros Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman, so if he receives "starter" money, he will likely be leaving San Francisco.
Additionally, it appears unlikely that the 49ers will re-sign cornerback Carlos Rogers, so this could possibly free up some cap space for Alex Smith, or a free agent wide receiver as they see fit.