The Peyton Manning sweepstakes hit a new high when it was reported late last week that the San Francisco 49ers held a secret and private workout with the four-time NFL Most Valuable Player.
The meeting was so successful that the 49ers sent over their team doctor to give Manning a physical exam as well.
Now that all the cards have been laid out on the table, and both the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals are no longer in the running, it appears Peyton Manning has narrowed his choices down to the 49ers, the Tennessee Titans and the Denver Broncos.
Manning will base his decision on the following three factors (in no particular order):
2) the team he feels most comfortable with
3) the team that gives him a chance to win another Super Bowl
With this in mind, I believe that the Denver Broncos are out of the running. They offer nothing but money to Peyton and they can't win anything more than a division title at best.
Furthermore, Denver benefits more from this signing than Manning. Why? John Elway can finally get rid of Tebow once and for all, or they can place him in goal-line offensive packages and hope that he'll learn from Peyton.
Last year, Denver overachieved and came out of nowhere to win the AFC West and knock off the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers. Most of this was based solely on the spirit and competitive fire of quarterback Tim Tebow.
Take Tebow out, and Denver is a 6-10 ball club at best.
Tennessee puts Peyton in the most comfortable situation. Last year, they finished 9-7, second in the AFC South behind the Houston Texans, but more importantly, they did most of that despite the absence of Chris Johnson, who at times disappeared in games (seven times Johnson finished with less than three yards a carry in a game). There was also the loss of WR Kenny Britt, whose season was cut short after just three games thanks to an ACL tear in his knee.
The Titans offer Manning a solid offense and even more, a chance to return to his birth state, Tennessee, where he also played college ball.
Then there are the 49ers, the wild card in the Manning sweepstakes. When the NFL first started to believe that there was a chance Peyton would be released from the Colts, the 49ers were always mentioned as one of the possible destinations, simply because of how good they were last season and that Alex Smith would become a free agent.
When news broke that the 49ers did in fact work out Peyton Manning in secret, the NFL was set on fire. The 49ers offer Manning one of the best defenses in the league, a solid running game, one of the best tight ends in the NFL in Vernon Davis (who torched both the Saints and Giants for four touchdowns in the playoffs) and a couple of new wide receivers in Randy Moss and Mario Manningham.
The 49ers make the most sense for Peyton if he really wants a legit shot at winning a Super Bowl.
People have already started the "Peyton won't sign in the NFC because he doesn't want to beat Eli in the playoff" talk, however, this is just plain nonsense.
Bottom line, Peyton Manning is a competitor. He wants to win another Super Bowl, and the window to do that is quickly closing. In the next couple of days, Peyton will make a final decision, but in the meantime, this writer believes that the Broncos are already out of the running.