Breaking Down What the Denver Broncos Are Getting in Peyton Manning
If the Broncos do indeed ink Manning to a deal, what exactly are they getting?
It's a pertinent question of course when considering their crown jewel of free agency is a 35-year-old passer coming off multiple neck surgeries. For all Manning has done, for all the countless highlights he's committed to the NFL archives, it's still worth pausing to ask what exactly he brings to Denver at this stage in his career.
Let's take a look at what exactly Manning would bring to the Broncos roster in 2012-13.
A Control Freak
Above all else, Manning is a control freak.
That doesn't just mean that he's constantly calling audibles and directing traffic at the line. He wants complete control of the offense, of offensive philosophy and strategy, and at times, of the locker room itself.
Keep in mind, when Manning was first shopping himself to teams in free agency, he specifically surveyed trusted sources to vouch for Miami Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall before considering Miami as a landing spot as reported by the Denver Post via Twitter. Manning doesn't like divas or troublemakers, never has.
Manning wants to run the offense his way and wants the team to function accordingly. In Denver, expect Manning to have a say in which sets and personnel the Broncos roll with. By proxy of this power, don't be surprised if the Broncos start making free agency bids for Jeff Saturday, Dallas Clark or Joseph Addai.
It may sound cliche, but never underestimate the importance of adding a winner to your squad.
Manning has a great deal of experience winning division races (eight division championships between AFC East and AFC South in Manning's Indianapolis career), playoff games (nine wins) and major championship games (two AFC championships, one Super Bowl).
Some may knock Manning for his overall playoff record, but his 88.4 postseason passer rating actually trumps New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady's 86.0 rating, so clearly the record isn't entirely indicative of individual performance.
In general, Manning seems to be one of those rare NFL players who is good for four or five more wins than an average pro roster would allow in a given year.
Even in the Colts' state of disarray in 2011, featuring more roster holes and injured-reserve club members than some teams see in a decade, most would argue Manning would have led the team close to, if not slightly over, a .500 record.
A Talent Creator
Brandon Stokley. Dominic Rhodes. Ben Utecht. Pierre Garcon. Blair White.
How many players over the years has Manning helped earn major (and arguably unwarranted) paydays or otherwise rise to some level of acclaim?
And how many people remember those players' accomplishments with their next teams?
Manning creates talent, plain and simple. His accuracy and ability to get the offense in the perfect set at the perfect time has created stars out of entirely average players.
The former Colts quarterback simply doesn't need top-tier talent to be successful, which makes it all the more curious as to why Bill Polian insisted on stocking an offense with two first-round running backs, three first-round wide receivers and a first-round tight end.
No matter who you buddy up to, Manning, given enough time to run through the route trees and establish a bit of chemistry, can turn him into a featured player.
A Weaker Arm Than You May Expect
As Bleacher Report's AFC South correspondent Nate Dunlevy noted today, Manning is no longer a viable deep threat passer. His arm leaves much to be desired—has for a few years—and he is unable to consistently stretch defenses with the vertical passing game.
And that was true even before his neck surgeries.
Like most aging passers, Manning will primarily need to rely on the short and intermediate passing games as he writes the final chapters to his Hall of Fame career. Broncos fans shouldn't expect many plays more than 30 yards downfield.
While this is a limitation, it isn't a death sentence. Manning should still excel at throwing comeback routes, intermediate post routes, slant patterns and intermediate out routes. Similarly, he should prove to be one of the NFL's most efficient red-zone quarterbacks, as he has always been lethal inside the 20-yard line and if healthy, should continue to put up points.
A Media Magnet
Win or lose, it's no question who the Broncos' first player to the podium will be.
Manning will give the Denver press more quotes than they know what to do with and should serve as a refreshingly available player for fans. He will always have a quote for the papers, win or loss, and steel himself for post-game interviews for the 11 o'clock news.
In this role, Manning also invites criticism, often drawing it away from other areas of the team. Broncos fans shouldn't be surprised if shortcomings go unvoiced in the interest of pinning success or failure squarely on the shoulders of their quarterback.
A Consummate Professional
Whether you're a Manning fan or spend your nights throwing darts at his likeness, one thing that cannot be argued is the former Colts quarterback's commitment to professionalism.
As was mentioned in the previous slide, Manning is always the first to the podium, known for hurrying into a suit and tie—sometimes approaching the media barefoot or in socks to do so—so reporters can get their sound bites and catch their scheduled flights home.
Manning is a community staple, known mostly in Indianapolis for the Peyton Manning Children's Hospital and various other charitable endeavors and always seems to better the city he calls home.
No matter what Broncos fans think about the player, the city of Denver will be better off for having inherited the man.
The Definition of a Pocket Passer
Peyton Manning is many things, but a mobile quarterback is not one of them.
Still, despite his tendency to be labeled a statue in the pocket, he's no Drew Bledsoe. Despite his lackluster mobility, Manning is still great at stepping up in the pocket and avoiding the pass-rush. The quarterback has an almost preternatural sense of eluding rushers, and at times seems to have a third eyeball mounted into the back of his helmet.
Manning won't be mistaken for Tim Tebow in Denver—though I'm not sure the discrepancy will bother most Broncos fans—but he also won't take an absurd number of sacks. He can't, of course, given the fact he's not far removed from a multitude of serious neck surgeries.
Only expect Manning to hug the ball and hit the turf when he has no other available option.
A Medical Red Flag
His doctors may have cleared him. He may have thrown well. He may have shown no signs of fatigue, exhaustion or pain after his workout.
But until he takes his first hit, his first real blindside pop, Manning is still a huge medical red flag.
The Broncos should prepare as such by surrounding Manning with top-tier blocking talent, from the line to the backfield. They may want to ease him back into NFL action with some QB-friendly game plans as well, designed to reduce Manning's exposure to pressure.
Still, sooner or later, someone will come free and set their sights on Manning's shoulder pads. Whether or not the Broncos' new QB can take that hit and play another down, is still a huge topic of debate.
A Pro Bowl Talent
Even at age 35, even after multiple neck surgeries and even entering a new team with new players he has never before worked with, you have to believe, if healthy, Manning is still a Pro Bowl-caliber quarterback.
As his game is largely predicated on accurate short-to-intermediate range passes and efficiency in the red zone, Manning should enjoy success in Denver. And he's not exactly walking into a talent-starved locker room.
Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker should prove to be more-than-adequate targets for the former Colts trigger man, and it's likely that former teammates such as Dallas Clark or Jacob Tamme will follow him into the Rockies as well.
Add in a solid rotation in the ground game, and Manning should perform just fine in Denver if the Broncos can keep him upright.