|Where will Peyton play in 2012? And will it feature Wayne? (Getty Images)|
Peyton Manning, by the end of the week, will no longer be a member of the Colts. It could happen as soon as Wednesday, but it's happening. It's the end of an era, and a new one is going to start soon.
But where? Manning is going to play somewhere and he's going to have his choice of a couple of nice spots. Let's break down where he might end up and why each of the potential landing spots does or does not make sense.
Arizona's always been my personal favorite landing spot for Manning, mainly because they did this same thing with Kurt Warner many moons ago and had great success. Also, you'd have to think they'd like to get out of having Kevin Kolb, and the Bidwell family isn't shy about grabbing big-name veterans.Pros: Larry Fitzgerald. Also: Larry Fitzgerald. Did we mention Larry Fitzgerald? Seriously though, Fitz is one of the best receivers in the game and he's put up monster stats with mediocre quarterbacks. Arizona's got a defense that came on strong late last year. They play in a relatively weak division; regardless of San Fran's success in 2011, they would be the favorite to win the NFC West with a healthy Manning. Their running game is decent enough, especially if Ryan Williams can return. Reggie Wayne would make this offense hum too. Perhaps Arizona's biggest advantage? They have a domed stadium with natural grass.
Cons: Their offense line needs work, but that's where free agency and the draft comes in. They have a commitment to Kevin Kolb due on March 17, which means the window to land Manning is incredibly short. They can't risk whiffing on Peyton and coughing up Kolb.
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Miami DolphinsThe Dolphins also make sense for a number of reasons (see: below), but primarily because they've desperately craved a quarterback since Dan Marino left town. It's the worst-kept secret in the NFL that ownership wants to make the offense a little sexier to bump up ticket sales. Peyton would do that.
Pros: South Beach, where Manning has a condo, is very nice this time of year, provided "this time of year" means "always." The Dolphins have one of the best left tackles in the game in Jake Long to shore up Manning's blindside. Brandon Marshall and Davonne Bess, with the addition of Reggie Wayne and/or Pierre Garcon is a filthy receiving corps. Reggie Bush was a feature back last year, somehow, but would be even more effective playing out of a Peyton-styled offense. They have lots of talent on the defense and could compete right away with Manning. There is no quarterback to worry about replacing. They play the Dolphins in South Beach.
Cons: The division is one of the toughest in the NFL. Peyton would have to play Tom Brady twice a year (although that's awesome for the rest of us). Joe Philbin, the new head coach, comes from Green Bay which means he could be in love with Matt Flynn. That could potentially make it awkward for Manning if owner Stephen Ross is set on Manning and Philbin is not. The media is not afraid to swarm on people who move to South Beach -- just ask LeBron James.
Since Pete Carroll arrived in Seattle, it's been assumed that at some point he'd make a play for a franchise quarterback. Thus far, the only plays he'd made are trading for Charlie Whitehurst and signing Tarvaris Jackson. Seattle still a "sleeper" for Manning, but landing him would absolutely represent the final piece in Carroll's "master plan."Pros: The Seahawks need to improve a little at guard, but they've got a lot invested in an offensive line that played well late last year and could keep Manning on his feet. A Manning-less Cardinals team means the Seahawks would absolutely challenge for the division title. There is only Tarvaris Jackson to unseat. The Seahawks have a better defense than a lot of people want to give them credit for, particularly the secondary. Carroll and GM John Schneider are not afraid to be aggressive. Or enthusiastic. So that's a plus.
Cons: The offense weapons are not great. Sidney Rice is the top receiver. Marshawn Lynch just signed a big deal, although he'd theoretically be more effective with Peyton under center. Obviously Wayne/Garcon would be nice additions. Weather and the outdoors of Seattle are not a plus.
Washington RedskinsPeyton's been attached to the Redskins because Daniel Snyder likes to spend money on shiny things with big names. And he's got at doing it, so regardless of whether or not the marriage makes sense, it's entirely possible.
Pros: Straight cash, homey: if Peyton wants to make the most money without worrying about incentives, I gotta think Washington's his spot. Mike Shanahan is desperate, so he'd probably be willing to cede some control to Peyton. This Skins defense would've been much better if they hadn't had to deal with the anemic offense Washington trotted out last year. The running game is fungible, thanks to Shanahan and would help Peyton.
Cons: The Redskins lack offensive weapons, but could bring in Wayne and Garcon if they wanted to keep playing with Peyton. Does Shanahan's system, which involves rolling out quarterbacks, really fit Manning? I say no. The media scene in Washington, with all due respect to my colleagues, can be a bit of a trainwreck. There is tons of coverage of the tiniest stories there. Peyton will have to play his little brother Eli Manning twice a year. He can't possibly want to do that and/or compete with Eli for a division title annually. What happens if Robert Griffin III blows up and Peyton struggles -- will people question the decision not to trade up? That's a serious question.
New York JetsRex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum refused to kill off the rumors about Manning heading to New York and thusly, these rumors live on.
Pros: The Jets are seen as a contender, even if their defense took steps back last year. There are weapons: Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller and Shonn Greene are decent enough. Reports indicate the Jets might be willing to dump Holmes to land Wayne. The offensive line has some legit talent on it; center Nick Mangold particularly stands out. The Jets have gone the big-name veteran route before, trading for Brett Favre. The Super Bowl will be in New York in 2014.
Cons: It's New York, which means the scrutiny on Manning is going to be amplified a billion times more than anywhere else. Manning is not a "spotlight" guy. Peyton would have to share the city with his brother; though that might be OK from a "having enough space" perspective, do you really think that either one of them wants to hear a million questions about each other at every press conference. The Jets locker room was a disaster last year and there's no guarantee (none, says Rex Ryan!) that it'll be better this year. The Jets play the Patriots twice a year. The Jets don't have the greatest setup for weather/stadium when it comes to helping Peyton.
Kansas City Chiefs
This is where we go from "sleeper" status to "darkhorse" candidate; the Chiefs actually make a lot of sense from a personnel and situational perspective, but is it really a fit? I'm not so sure.Pros: The Chiefs are a bounceback candidate in 2012, thanks to guys like Eric Berry, Tony Moeaki and Jamaal Charles returning from injury. Charles, Moeaki, Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston create a formidable set of offensive weapons. They play the Colts in Arrowhead. Matt Cassel is the primary competition, but he's not a tremendous salary-cap burden in 2012.
Cons: Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel are Patriots guys. Is that considered the dark side? That's serious: could Peyton play for Patriots midwest or whatever you want to call the Chiefs? It really seems like a long shot. Crennel might actually have tampering charges filed against him.
San Francisco 49ersIf any team is "one guy away," it's the 49ers. And that's why you can't count them out. Plus, Peyton Manning replaced Jim Harbaugh in Indy, and Peyton Manning's getting replaced by Andrew Luck, who was coached by ... Jim Harbaugh. Stew on that one for a minute.
Pros: The 49ers are a stacked team, outside of quarterback and wide receiver. Vernon Davis is a freakshow target and this team has room for Wayne/Garcon. Their defense is one of the best in the NFL. They were a Kyle Williams fumble away from making the Super Bowl. They have no quarterback: Alex Smith is going to be a free agent too.
Cons: Harbaugh's gotten behind Smith the whole way and he seems genuinely convinced that Smith can be his guy long term. The 49ers would be throwing a lot of progress away if they went after Manning and he wasn't healthy, so there is a lot of risk here.
Houston TexansYeah, we're getting nuts. The Texans are a real long shot, especially with Matt Schaub under center. But Schaub's closing in on the end of his deal
Pros: This offense is loaded obviously. Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, one of the best offensive lines in the league, Owen Daniels, Ben Tate -- a lot of talent here. They get to play the Colts twice a year and this would be the ultimate spite move.
Cons: There's so much risk involved in doing this for the Texans, it's just too hard to fathom. They have T.J. Yates if Manning doesn't pan out, but they definitely thought they could win the Super Bowl had Schaub stayed healthy last year. No cap room.
Denver BroncosAgain, we are deep here people. Don't judge me. You know John Elway wants a "real" quarterback. And there are probably only one or two that could actually take the wind out of Tim Tebow's sails. Peyton is one of them.
Pros: See above; the Broncos want an under-center QB and Peyton would trump Tebowmania. (I think.) They have a talented defense. They play in a weak division.
Cons: The Broncos have an OK offense, with Willis McGahee, Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker and Knowshon Moreno.
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