The Redskins bartered themselves out of the running last week by trading future draft picks to most likely take Baylor phenom Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 pick in this summer’s draft, while the Jets gave a vote of confidence to their quarterback and re-signed Mark Sanchez.
Tennessee could use all the help it can get on the offensive line as it ranked 31st in the NFL in rushing last season, averaging just 89.9 yards per game despite having one of the league’s best running backs in Chris Johnson.
What’s good for the Titans—besides the potential signing of Hutchinson—is that Nashville is the closest city to Indianapolis of all the contenders. Manning enjoys the Midwest and played in college nearby at the University of Tennessee. Also, the AFC South is the worst division (26-38) in the NFL, and playing against Houston (10-6), Jacksonville (5-11) and playing his former team, the Colts (2-11), twice would be nice.
What’s bad for Tennessee is it has a long way to go to improve and doesn’t possess the talented receiving corps Manning is used to having.
Manning has also met with the Cardinals, who are not happy with the way Kevin Kolb played for them last season. Should Manning head to the Valley of the Sun, he will have one of the NFL’s best wide receivers in Larry Fitzgerald as a target, along with the improving Early Doucet.
But like the Titans, Arizona has a long way to go to improve, and playing in the NFC, the same conference as his brother Eli and the Super Bowl champion Giants, may not appeal to Peyton.
Manning met with the Dolphins Monday, who need a decent quarterback worse than the Titans and Cardinals do. Like Arizona, the weather would be better for an aging guy like Manning, and Miami has some decent young receivers in Davone Bess and Brian Hartline.
A move to South Florida, where Manning already owns a condominium, might make sense, as some analysts think he wants to stay in the AFC.
On the other hand, the Dolphins play in the tough AFC East, meaning Manning would have to face the AFC champion Patriots and Jets twice, and Miami’s offensive line would have to strengthen a bit to accommodate the not-so-nimble quarterback.
The last candidate here, the Broncos, seem like the best fit for Manning, and Las Vegas insider R.J. Bell reported Tuesday on Twitter (@RJinVegas) that SportsInteraction.com listed the Broncos (-132) as having the best chance of landing Manning, who met with general manager John Elway—a Hall of Fame quarterback—in Denver on Friday.
The Dolphins (+200), Cardinals (+275) and Titans (+333) were the next three in line.
Conventional wisdom would dictate the two have a mutual respect for each other. And it’s been highly publicized that Elway was unhappy with The Tim Tebow Experiment last season, despite the somewhat positive results.
In Denver, Manning would need to make some pretty mediocre names his targets, but all in all, the Broncos have the best team of the four pursuing him. And recent rumors that Manning’s teammate in Indianapolis, Dallas Clark, may be headed there, only strengthen the possibility of him landing in Denver.
There he could stay in the AFC in a division that’s very winnable with the Raiders, Chiefs and Chargers. Tebow would probably have to go elsewhere, but when you suddenly have Peyton Manning on your roster, that doesn’t seem like much of a problem. This team is the perfect fit both physically and psychologically.
All in all, taking a chance on a guy who has had three neck surgeries and isn’t getting any younger, is a pretty big thing. That and the millions of dollars he’ll demand. Although the physical risk is still a big one, Peyton Manning is still Peyton Manning, and he has the potential to turn all four of these teams around.
In the end, I think he’s headed to the Broncos. Time will tell and some think he’ll make his decision as early as this weekend.
Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinStott11
Kevin Stott has written for the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s View Newspapers and Gaming Today and is not to be confused with the soccer referee of the same name.