One of the hottest NFL stories right now involves a guy who hasn’t played a down all year. In a radio interview earlier this week, Peyton Manning’s father, Archie, made a statement that he didn’t think either Peyton or projected #1 pick Andrew Luck wanted to be on the same team. Assumedly after getting a call from Colts management informing Archie that he’s not helping anyone (Peyton’s trade value) with statements like that, the eldest Manning quickly did a backpedal of sorts, complimenting Luck and saying he’s sure the two could co-exist just fine. Now that there’s a spotlight on the situation, one has to ask – Will both Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck be Indianapolis Colts next year? Great question. Assuming the current Colts don’t develop any testicular fortitude in this last month of the season, not only will they have the first pick in the draft, they’ll have made it mathematically impossible to finish with a worse record. Let’s approach this one step at a time.
First, there’s the matter of Peyton’s contract. Per that contract, Manning is due a measly $28 million bonus four days prior to the start of the 2012 league year. Since the Colts can’t move Manning prior to the current bonus deadline, they’re likely to negotiate with his reps about moving that deadline back a week or two to allow them to get something in return for a guy who was considered by many to be the best QB in the league this time last year.
Back to Luck. If you’re the Colts, do you spend the first pick in the draft on what most “experts” believe is the best/safest QB prospect to enter the draft since possibly, yep, Peyton Manning? When you look at this team, there wasn’t a bigger weakness than the play under center. Curtis Painter was so awful that now Dan Orlovsky is the first stringer. If you’re the Colts, how can you NOT draft Andrew Luck given what you know about Luck and what little you know about Peyton’s future health and ability?
As bad as this year has been for Indy, they potentially be looking at a decent haul of picks for Peyton in addition to getting Luck at #1. Not a bad way to start 2012. Do you deal Peyton or hold on to him and possibly create your own Favre/Rodgers situation? I would look to deal Peyton for two reasons:
1 – You’ll be getting a guy who I mentioned before as very safe pick; someone who looks to be incredibly pro-ready; and
2 – You have no idea how Peyton is going to bounce back in 2012. Not to doubt the great Peyton Manning, but can he flip the switch and pick right up where he left off? Is he one blindside shot away from retirement?
So now that I’ve made those decisions, the last question to answer is – where do you send Peyton? Looking across the league, there are only a handful of teams that I think will be actively looking to upgrade the QB position this offseason. You can also expect the Colts to at least initially look outside the AFC which will limit their options even more.
Here are the 10 options as I see them:
Yes, I realize the Timmy is now the greatest thing since the invention of the game of football itself, but one can’t assume the clock won’t strike midnight on this fairy tale at some point. One non-Tebow point that could squash speculation is the unlikely desire of John Elway, an iconic QB in his own right, to bring another icon into his backyard. I understand. Elway needs to do what’s best for the Broncos, and I’m not saying he won’t. But do you think he’d be terribly aggressive in bringing Peyton to Denver? I don’t.
Easily the biggest weakness on the Jets in my opinion, Mark Sanchez will single-handedly keep the Jets from winning a championship as long as he’s taking snaps as their QB. Rex Ryan has already been presented with the Peyton scenario and predictably voiced his support for Sanchez. Still, if/when supposition turns into serious possibility, opinions can/do change.
Matt Moore took over for an injured Chad Henne during the season, but Miami would rather neither one be their guy next year. Still, would they be a financial and organizational fit for Peyton? Very doubtful in my opinion.
See Miami. They’ve got Colt McCoy running the WCO right now, and while a player as talented as Peyton can make any team change their scheme, I just don’t see him as a financial and organization fit in Cleveland.
Jacksonville is already reportedly having discussions about ending the Blaine Gabbert experience as the rookie passer looks horribly overwhelmed and scared shitless as an NFL starter. A new owner would love to make a splash with an acquisition like this, but would Manning agree to the move? The Colts don’t need his permission to move him, but I’m sure Peyton could make life difficult for all parties involved if he’s not keen on his potential destination. Would you want to play for the Jags?
On the surface this doesn’t look like a terribly appealing option, but there’s some talent on this Kansas City team. Jamaal Charles figures to be back at the start of next year after inuring his ACL in the second game of this season, and Dwayne Bowe is probably the most underutilized receiver in the game. Throw in rookie Jonathan Baldwin who is getting better each week and third receiver Steve Breaston and this isn’t an awful offense to build around. The Chiefs know they need to improve upon Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko, and Kyle Orton, and I believe the latter is most likely to be a Chief next year. The fact that they spent a waiver claim in Orton when they were pretty much out of the playoff chase tells me they have plans beyond this year for Orton. That said, do you put your blinders on to Manning just because you think Orton can play for you?
This one makes quite a bit of sense at first glance. You’ve got Dan Synder, a man never afraid to reach for a headline or spend a dollar and a head coach in Mike Shanahan, a guy who’s been around the block a couple of times in the NFL. Oh, and their QBs suck. Shanahan believes he can find RBs behind the counter at Subway, but he’s very meticulous about his QBs. Manning and Shanahan would be a tremendous pairing in my opinion, and you know Washington is going to be in the forefront when these trade talks start picking up.
How can I include a 10-2 team, a team with the league’s second best record on a list of teams needing to upgrade at QB? Easy when that team’s starter is Alex Smith. Make no mistake, this has been a career year for the former Ute, but does Jim Harbaugh want to continue spending the early part of his 49er era managing his QB and offense through games on a weekly basis? You might say I’m being a bit hard on Smith, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence he finally looks like a professional since Harbaugh arrived on the scene. Give him a different coach and a different team, and Smith goes back to the pre-2011 version. If I’m Harbaugh, I’m salivating at the possibility of adding a Pro Bowl passer to a team that is already dominant at running the ball on offense and stopping the opposition from doing so on defense. A healthy Manning could make them an automatic division winner for the next five years given the circus that is the rest of the NFC West.
Despite the recent wave of wins, Pete Carroll will no doubt look to upgrade over Tarvaris Jackson this offseason. An easy association is USC’s Matt Barkley who surely will go pro after the season, but with the way Seattle is winning, they’ll need to trade up in the draft to get Barkley. I do expect the Seahawks to have a new QB under center next year, but I think Matt Flynn is going to be that guy. Aaron Rodgers’ backup will be starting for an NFL team next year, and with GM John Schneider’s history with Flynn and the Packers, I expect their focus to be on the much younger, much cheaper passer.
Yes they traded for Kevin Kolb less than a year ago, but how has that panned out for them? The deal may make a Manning move financially impossible, but putting Manning on the other end of the passes thrown in Larry Fitzgerald’s direction could increase their offensive output substantially. They’d be an extreme long shot in my opinion.
In the first round of cuts I’ll eliminate Denver, Miami, Cleveland, and Jacksonville. As I mentioned earlier, I think the Colts will try to get him out of the conference, and I can’t see Peyton having the slightest interest in joining any of those teams except possibly Denver.
Next I’ll eliminate the Seahawks for the Flynn factor and the Cardinals for Kolb’s contract.
That leaves the Jets, Chiefs, Redskins, and 49ers as the remaining candidates, and honestly, I’ll be shocked if he’s not starting for one of these four teams next season. He’d make the biggest impact on the Jets and 49ers, but, if healthy, he could make the Chiefs and Redskins playoff teams next year.
Of those four, I’d give KC the longest odds. In my opinion, they’d really have to surpass the competition in compensation, both to the Colts and Manning.
As great as I think that fit would be in San Francisco, I don’t see them winning a bidding war with the remaining teams.
So that means I’ve got it down to the Jets and Redskins. With what we know now about their anticipated cap situations, Washington currently looks to be the better fit. I expect them to exhaust all resources in their pursuit of Peyton. But will it be enough?
As much as Rex Ryan wants to put on the show that Mark Sanchez has a future as a winner in the NFL, he’s got to giggle at the thought of putting Peyton at the helm of his offense. Think this insistence on maintaining ‘ground and pound’ continues with Peyton as their QB? Earlier I mentioned Dwayne Bowe as the league’s most underutilized receiver. Finishing a close second is Santonio Holmes. Think Peyton could get some use out of him?
Decision time. For the 2012 season, I believe that Peyton Manning will be the starting QB for……..the New York Jets.
I know that I mentioned the Colts' anticipated desire to move Peyton out of the AFC, and it will be hard to out-offer the Redskins. They way I see this going down is that the Redskins and Jets make near identical offers to the Colts, and Peyton "forces the Colts' hand" in moving him to the Jets.
Can you imagine the storylines? Manning v. Brady at least twice a year. Peyton & Rex v. Tom & Bill? The suits at the NFL offices would be doing cartwheels over the press and money spewing out of that situation.
Whether or not he is a New York Jet in three months is yet to be determined, but I’ve got to think that given his situation, both financially and physically, and the anticipated availability of Andrew Luck, Peyton Manning has thrown his last pass as an Indianapolis Colt.