Free-Agent Peyton Manning
Peyton Manning is about to do something he probably has not done since high school: Look for a job.
While the four time NFL MVP and Super Bowl Champion will have many suitors, where he signs will change the NFL for the next few seasons at least. Wherever he goes, there will be immediate expectations for that team, and anything short of returning to the Super Bowl might be viewed as a failure.
That said, where should he go?
It is logical to assume that every team without an All-Pro quarterback will at the very least inquire about him, but which team provides Peyton the best chance to win now?
The Denver Broncos seem like an alright fit, and the fans might be willing to let Tebow sit a few years under the tutelage of Manning if he were willing to come to Mile High. Denver as a city is similar to Indianapolis, and is even a bit smaller. The Broncos have salary-cap space to use, and could use Manning to bolster an offense to go along with a top ranked defense.
John Elway is probably salivating over the possibility, but sorry to say, Broncos fans, I doubt he ends up in Colorado.
The Kansas City Chiefs have the cap room and the need to acquire Manning's services. They would likely sit Matt Cassel or trade him if they got a good offer. I doubt Peyton likes what he sees on offense in Kansas City, so while their name is being rumored, I don't like Manning to sign with the Chiefs.
The San Francisco 49ers have everything Manning could conceivably desire. They have the cap room, the need at quarterback (sorry Alex Smith fans, he is not the answer), and a young and aggressive new head coach. Jim Harbaugh is notorious for running things his way. If you sign Manning, you have to know that he will want control of the offense, something Harbaugh might not allow. If Manning goes to San Francisco and wins a Super Bowl, maybe Harbaugh thinks that will make his coaching seem second-fiddle to signing Manning as the reason for the success.
Where Will Peyton Manning Sign?
For all of those reasons, I think San Fran will roll with Alex smith, Manning is out.
The Arizona Cardinals are another possibility for Manning. Coach Ken Wisenhunt would likely give Manning total freedom in his offense, which Peyton would need.
They have the NFL's best (arguable) receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, and a solid young running back in Beanie Wells. The Cardinals are in a weaker division, the weather is nice, and they play in a glorified dome that actually has real grass. The downfalls of Arizona are spotty offensive line play, susceptible defense, and really no other options through the air than Fitzy.
For those reasons, I put the Cardinals as the No. 2 destination for Peyton.
I think we will see Peyton Manning donning a Miami Dolphins jersey next season. He could have total control of the offense, and he would be protected by rising star tackle Jake Long. Miami has a true No.1 receiver in Brandon Marshall, who proved to be effective last year even with terrible quarterback play. His potential skyrockets with Manning throwing to him.
They have the money and the need to go after Manning hard, and I expect them do do just that. Miami has been starving for a quarterback since Dan Marino retired in 2000. Peyton also seems to prefer staying in the AFC, most likely to avoid run ins with his brother Eli, who plays in the NFC.
With Manning running the show, the Dolphins have a team that can compete for a Super Bowl in 2012.
While I expect Manning to be a Dolphin, there are a lot of variables to be seen. There might be a dark-horse team out there that will overpay for him and win. There might be some factors only Peyton knows.
All we know is this: Whatever team Manning decides to take over, their Super Bowl odds likely go way up. One other thing to ponder is that free-agent receiver Reggie Wayne will likely sign wherever Peyton does.
It should be an exciting couple of weeks.