This news saddens me. I knew it was going to happen the moment he missed the entire regular season, but it still saddens me that it has become a reality. During the season I was rooting for the Colts to win at least four or five games so they would stay well clear of that first draft pick and Peyton would be able to return because drafting a quarterback wouldn’t make much sense given the options available this year.
Ultimately, I can’t blame either side. Manning’s injury is of a strange nature, and despite the fact that he has rehabbed quite well, the Colts can’t really pass up a talent like Andrew Luck. Especially since having them both would cost them $51 million in salary for this coming season alone. That number just isn’t going to work for any team, even without a salary cap. I’m sure that Peyton doesn’t harbor any ill feelings, and I’m sure that both sides probably wish everything had turned out differently, but ultimately football is a business and teams and players have to do what they have to do.
Now the real question is where he will wind up playing next season. For a while I was of the opinion that he would likely retire if he wasn’t brought back to the Colts roster, but after seeing the reports of his practice on Duke campus recently it seems like he is raring to go, ready to play, and has something to prove.
With that in mind, experts apparently agree that the following 8 teams are the only ones who really have a chance at landing Peyton Manning’s services for the upcoming season. They are the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, and San Francisco 49ers.
In my opinion, the list of legitimate contenders for Peyton Manning is a lot shorter. The Jets are an absolute circus, and while they have a lot of available talent, I don’t think Manning is going to want to have much to do with that drama. San Francisco is coming off of a 13-3 season with Alex Smith doing a pretty decent job managing the offense. I really don’t think Jim Harbaugh is going to throw all of the progress they made together away and install Manning instead.
That narrows the field to 6 so far. Cleveland is a pretty big mess. They are lacking talent in the receiving position as well as the offensive line, and I really don’t know that Manning is going to want to deal with the beating he will likely take from the defenses in that division. With that surgically repaired neck he isn’t going to want to be spending as much time on the turf as he will facing Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Cincinnati. Those are some monster defenses all around.
Seattle would be hard to see because of the weather. Manning has played in a dome for the past 14 years and I really don’t think he wants to play in that kind of weather. He doesn’t need to since he basically gets to pick his location.
So, now we are down to 4 possible locations: Kansas City, Washington, Arizona, and Miami. I think Washington is out because of their coach Mike Shanahan. He’s a great coach, but he loves to run the ball and Peyton loves to throw it, not to mention have almost completely control of the offensive system. He isn’t going to get that in Washington. Arizona went to a lot of effort to grab Kevin Kolb last season and they also have the surprisingly promising John Skelton as well. I don’t think they are in such dire need that they have to take the leap and chase after Manning.
That leaves us with Miami and Kansas City. Either would be a pretty decent fit in my mind, but I think if I had to pick I would go with the Miami Dolphins being his ultimate destination. The weather is basically like playing in a dome, the offense is really only in need of a quarterback to take massive leaps forward, and they have a running game, which is something Peyton had to live without for the past few seasons. Its an ideal fit, and ultimately where I think I would like to see him land.
Besides, who doesn’t want to see Tom Brady and Peyton Manning playing in the same division? Talk about epic.
Miami is where a lot of people think he’ll land, so I won’t be surprised if that’s what happens, but in the back of my mind I’m leaving myself open to some team coming out of nowhere and taking a big gamble to win big now. I’ll be watching with interest to see what he does, and I hope he does it sooner rather than later.