Six weeks into the NFL season, the frenzied courtship of Manning and the avalanche of reactionary moves that followed his decision have been completely justified.
Manning would have added even more intrigue to the already crowded NFC if he opted for any one of the NFC West teams not named the St. Louis Rams (who weren’t involved in chasing him).
ESPN NFL analyst Andrew Brandt outlined a few moves that were most likely made because Manning chose Denver.
Peyton choosing Broncos led to Cardinals paying Kolb option, Seattle signing Flynn,Jets re-working Sanchez contract, etc.
If the Arizona Cardinals were able to land Manning, they would have had no need to pick up Kevin Kolb’s option on his contract. There would have been no quarterback controversy that lasted through an NFL-high five preseason games.
Larry Fitzgerald would likely be in the midst of a career year, but how long it would have sustained itself is a major question mark—just like the Arizona offensive line.
John Skelton would probably have found himself under center somehow.
The Seahawks went after Matt Flynn when they fell out of the running for Manning. He was then outplayed by a third-round rookie, Russell Wilson, in camp. That kept Flynn off of any other NFL rosters.
Maybe he would have wound up in Arizona to replace Kolb.
Wilson, meanwhile, would have patiently waited out Manning’s tenure in Seattle (much like Brock Osweiler is doing in Denver) with little to no clamoring from fans for Wilson to take the field.
Either of those scenarios would have made the NFC an even deeper conference. If Manning signed with the New York Jets, he would have put them on the Super Bowl radar and given them a real chance to win the AFC East.
Because he went to an AFC team, Manning’s signing in Denver seems to have balanced the conferences—as much as one player can—knowing what we know now.
Playing in the AFC, he and the Broncos appear to have a better chance at getting into the playoffs. Denver was already a playoff team last year that won a game under the on-field leadership of Tim Tebow.
Manning is a more highly-skilled quarterback and has been doing the leading thing for years. Choosing the Broncos gave him a clearer path to the Lombardi trophy than he could have found in most other locations.