Another day in the saga of free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning brought yet another twist Friday, as the San Francisco 49ers appear to be the latest team to throw their hats into the ring and make a push for the services of the four-time NFL MVP.
While teams such as the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals fell from contention to land one of the biggest free agent-prizes in NFL history, the 49ers have reportedly joined the Tennessee Titans as late arrivals in the Manning sweepstakes, bringing Manning to the Bay Area for a workout, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
Filed to ESPN: Third team in Manning race that has emerged is49ers - Manning worked out for Harbaugh &took physical this week #NFL32— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) March 16, 2012
The 49ers weren't believed to have significant interest in Manning, but if the the details of Manning's workout relayed by ESPN's Adam Schefter are any indication, that may well have changed after San Francisco joined the Denver Broncos as teams that have not only met with Manning, but actually worked him out.
Manning worked out for the 49ers on Tuesday night at Duke in Durham, N.C., with coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman witnessing a passing session that was described by a source as "very impressive"—enough so that the 49ers sent a doctor to Durham to conduct a physical exam Wednesday.
That's the second time this week that we've heard positive feedback emanating from Manning's workouts, and while some of that could of course be spin, Broncos legend and executive John Elway certainly seem pleased with what he saw Friday, tweeting:
We enjoyed visiting with Peyton today in N.C. He threw the ball great and looked very comfortable out there.— John Elway (@johnelway) March 16, 2012
Elway and the Broncos have made no secret of their interest in Manning, but the 49ers either did or are reconsidering re-signing quarterback Alex Smith, and these second thoughts should give Manning some as well in regards to which team would give him the best chance to win in 2012.
The 49ers went to overtime in the NFC Championship game last season before falling to the New York Giants, and with one of the NFL's best defenses, a solid running game led by Frank Gore and an athletic tight end in Vernon Davis Manning, would have some weaponry at his disposal in San Francisco.
Granted, the 49ers don't have a fearsome stable of wide receivers, but Michael Crabtree finally made some strides a year ago, and if the 49ers can add some talent around him in free agency and/or the draft, they can still provide Manning with a serviceable group of wideouts to work with, especially given Manning's proclivity for making wide receivers look good.
What team gives Peyton Manning the best chance to win in 2012?
Also, some may question how well Manning and 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh would mesh given Manning's desire for autonomy on offense and Harbaugh's no-nonsense approach. However, just because Jim Harbaugh is no-nonsense doesn't mean he has no sense, and he likely knows full well that the best way to utilize Peyton Manning is to let him be Peyton Manning.
San Francisco may not provide Manning with the best opportunity statistically, but the complementary pieces around Manning on both sides of the ball with the 49ers would probably give him the best chance to make a deep run into the playoffs and make a third appearance in the Super Bowl.
Of course, to do that he might have to beat little brother Eli in an NFC title rematch that would be one of the most anticipated games in years, as the brothers would do battle with a third trip to football's biggest game on the line.
As fans of the NFL, how can you not root for that?