If you believe ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, and I usually do, Peyton Manning is on the verge of becoming one of the most sought after free agents in NFL history. With that in mind we thought we’d tap our resident Colts fan Lester Zook for his thoughts where this future hall of famer will end up.
It cracks me up that bookies and odds-makers are putting up lines about where Peyton Manning is going to go. The writing is pretty much on the wall that Peyton is going to be leaving the Indianapolis Colts; all we need to do is wait for “the talk” between Jim Irsay and ole #18 before it’s confirmed. I could go into how there is a small chance that Peyton will return to the Colts (and being a die-hard Colts fan I’m not opposed to it) but just looking at the fiscal impact…I’ll put it like this, Jim Irsay is a unique guy, but he’s not stupid, he’s not going to hamstring his team just to keep Peyton in Indy.
Peyton recently dropped this line, “Indianapolis will always be a part of me.” He knows his time is done, and so perhaps is the Colts run of excellence. Jeff Saturday is flirting with retirement and the Colts have put out some feelers about him working in the front office. Reggie Wayne is getting ready to hit free agency…it’s time to turn the page.
It’s going to suck to see Peyton in another jersey, especially if he returns to his MVP form. I think he’s going to and it’s just a matter of time and training to get his arm back to where it needs to be. Peyton and his agent have already said they’re willing to take an incentive laden deal to play next season. This is an interesting move for a few reasons. First, there is a market for #18, so no matter what he’s going to get a contract with some level of guaranteed money. Second, it leaves the door open for good teams that do not have a ton of money to spend to look at their quarterback situation. Peyton wants to win another ring, hell, he wants to win as many rings as he possibly can before he decides to become his son’s full time quarterback coach…or become an announcer…or work as an offensive coordinator or head coach. Peyton Manning as a GM? If former offensive and defensive linemen can run NFL teams, why not one of the smartest QBs to play the game?
Let’s take a look at some possible destinations for Peyton Manning. Go over some pros and cons.
First up – Peyton Manning signs with the Miami Dolphins
I don’t think the Dolphins are very high on Peyton’s wish list. The Dolphins are a lot like the Colts; lots of holes on defense and some good talent on offense. Peyton is a godsend to running backs, and Reggie Bush would benefit as long as he can pick up blitzes. Jake Long is a stud at left tackle, Brandon Marshall on the outside, Mike Pouncey could develop into another Jeff Saturday, and Daniel Thomas is a talented young running back who has no problem running between the tackles. There’s talent on offense, sure, but is it good enough to get to the Super Bowl? Unless the Dolphins make some considerable upgrades on defense and maybe bring Reggie Wayne back to Miami to pair with Brandon Marshall, I do not see Peyton wanting to play on a team with so many holes. If he did sign with the Dolphins, I’m sure we’d see Peyton Manning throwing passes to LeBron James on ESPN for a couple of months. I’m sure Dan Marino wouldn’t play the role of the bitter ex-quarterback, either.
Match Made in Hell – Peyton Manning signs with the Washington Redskins
Quick, name three receivers (Fred Davis is a tight end, you wannabe fantasy football badass) off the Redskins. It’s on the honor system so if you have to Google it, that’s fine, because I could only think of two. Jabar Gaffney and Santana Moss. It’s obvious that Gaffney is a talented receiver, he’s in the NFL, and he’s had a couple of seasons that put him on the radar. He’s not talented enough to lure a quarterback to come to the Redskins, neither is Santana Moss, who has to be one of the most overrated receivers in NFL history. Mike Shanahan is a very well respected head coach and he knows how to deal with talented quarterbacks. He’s also a control freak, like Peyton Manning, and that’s not going to end well. Throw Daniel Snyder into the mix…it’s just a giant headache with no hope of winning a Super Bowl. I bet Roger Goodell would veto the move as well as the “Manning Bowl” is going to be a hot ticket, and you can’t have that two, maybe three times a season.
The Job Saver – Peyton Manning signs with the Arizona Cardinals
Ken Whisenhunt has to be one of the luckiest coaches in the NFL. First, he gets credit for “crafting” an offense around Kurt Warner, Larry Fitzgerald and Anquan Boldin. Wow, talk about some ball busting work. Oddly enough, the Cards have regressed considerably now that Warner and Boldin are gone. Call me crazy, but isn’t an “offensive guru” like Whisenhunt supposed to be good at developing talent? He hasn’t had a quarterback work out since Warner. Boldin’s performance fell off after Warner left, and only Fitzgerald is still plugging along. Peyton Manning throwing on the red and white will do a few things, though. It will save Whisenhunt’s job and Fitz will have an amazing season. Even Early Doucet will break 1K total receiving yards and Beanie Wells won’t look like an oversized turd trying to run the ball. The Card’s defense isn’t terrible but they’re not instilling fear in any of their opponents. Again, just like Miami; why would Peyton want to contribute to a rebuilding effort? If Peyton is going to head to the NFC he will pick a team that has a competent enough of a defense to hang with the Giants.
I really don’t think we’ll see Peyton sign with Miami, Washington or Arizona. They’re the most QB desperate teams, sure, but they’re not going to help Peyton accomplish anything. If it was just a matter of suiting up and throwing some passes then we’d see Peyton take a league minimum deal and mentor Andrew Luck for a season. It’s about winning and Peyton wants to win. So what teams are just a quarterback away from winning the Lombardi Trophy?
You can eliminate a handful of teams right off the bat. First let’s get rid of the Patriots, Steelers, Eagles, Saints, Giants, Falcons, Chargers, Packers, Ravens and Lions as they all have quarterbacks who love their teams and their teams love them back. Next we can eliminate the Bills, Titans, Raiders, Bears, Jags, Bucs, Bengals, Panthers and Rams as these teams either have giant contracts or commitments attached to their QBs or the quarterback is young and talented.
We’ve already discussed the Redskins, Dolphins and Cardinals. Any team that gets into public arguments over contracts with their kicker won’t be an option so that means the Browns are out as well. Well, that and the Browns are terrible.
The teams that are left are teams I could see Peyton Manning signing with. In no particular order…
Yeah, some of those teams have established quarterbacks. Really good quarterbacks, but they’re not on Peyton Manning’s level. Some of these teams could deal their established quarterbacks to a team like Miami or Washington for draft picks, sign Peyton for the rest of his career (3+) seasons and draft a replacement. John Elway possibly signing Peyton Manning to not only curb Tebow-Mania, but also as a way to put Tebow though the MPA (Manning Passing Academy) on a full time basis? There are still a lot of questions to be answered about Peyton’s health and he’s still on the Colts, so we’ve got some time to speculate. What do you guys think? Where do you think Peyton will end up?