NFL Free Agency: Might Mario Manningham Follow Peyton Manning?

Nick DeWitt@@nickdewitt11Analyst IMarch 17, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 05:  Wide receiver Mario Manningham #82 of the New York Giants catches a 38-yard pass from Eli Manning #10 over Patrick Chung #25 and Sterling Moore #29 of the New England Patriots in the fourth quarter during Super Bowl XLVI at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 5, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Peyton Manning is down to three teams. The San Francisco 49ers, Denver Broncos and Tennessee Titans are all bidding on his services. There's still no clear front-runner, although I find it curious that San Francisco just emerged recently. That could indicate they're charging hard to overtake the other two.

Either way, any team that signs Manning could also use another target for him to get the ball to. Manning operates best in three-receiver sets with a good pass-catching tight end thrown in.

Right now, San Francisco has the best cadre of receivers, but even they could use one more. The other two teams each have serious questions at the position that could limit their bargaining power if they don't seem capable of bringing Manning targets.

Enter Mario Manningham, a receiver for Peyton's brother Eli, who seems ready (after a spectacular Super Bowl catch and a solid performance all year in 2011) to make an impact on his own.

Manningham isn't a top receiver. He's a good No. 2 and a super No. 3 option. He's going to want paid, however. Telling him he'd be catching passes from the elder Manning might entice him to take a little money off his price, however.

If the Broncos land Manning (and even if they don't), Manningham would be a prime candidate to play opposite Demaryius Thomas now that Eddie Royal has departed. He would give the Broncos a steady No. 2 receiver who can be physical and catch balls in traffic.

The Titans are betting on Kenny Britt to return to full health and for Nate Washington to be the receiver they envisioned when they nabbed him after he won a Super Bowl with the Steelers.

They'd be in much better condition if they landed Manningham, who'd instantly become their No. 1 (if Britt isn't ready) or No. 2 (if Britt is ready). He'd also be a good target for youngster Jake Locker, who will need a safety valve-type receiver to throw the ball to short to medium when he's in trouble.

Manningham has shown the knack for tough catches—something that none of the three teams bidding for Manning have seen out of their receivers (save for Britt, and I'm not sure he's even quite there).

It will be interesting to see if one player's market impacts the other, but it would be a nice pairing. Manning can make virtually any receiver a star, and Manningham doesn't seem to need a whole ton of help right now to be a good player.