Peyton Manning’s Top 5 Potential Suitors
There is a lot of speculation in the air right now, regarding Indianapolis Colts star quarterback Peyton Manning’s future. Obviously there is the issue with the neck still recovering, as well as the team likely drafting Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the number one overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. But the big thing is that everything is changing in Indy, and even Manning has taken notice.
Whether it’s retirement or a release, our guess (like many others), is that Manning is done as a Colt. So, here’s a look at five teams that are either realistic or hopeful options for Manning if/when he becomes a free agent:
1. San Francisco 49ers
A lot of people have the Jets as the top dogs, and while they’re up there, I think the 49ers make the most sense. Manning would have a less brash coach in Jim Harbaugh, a sound running game (for the first time in a long time), and arguably the best defense in the league. Alex Smith made strides in 2011, but he’s a free agent and you have to think the 49ers would be smart enough to pick Manning over Smith.
The 49ers arguably could have moved on to this year’s Super Bowl if they had a more efficient quarterback with playoff experience. In Manning, they’d have that, and then some.
2. New York Jets
Despite losing their final three games of the regular season and missing the playoffs, the Jets still appear to be a piece or two from getting to the Super Bowl. As many have suggested, the main thing holding this offense (and team) back has been the quarterback, Mark Sanchez. Manning could enter and make New York immediate Super Bowl contenders, working with a good defense and a rising rushing attack. Santonio Holmes would give him a borderline elite wide receiver, while there’s always the chance Reggie Wayne and/or Pierre Garcon could follow Manning to the Big Apple.
I’m not high on the idea of Manning operating behind/with a head coach that talks as much as Rex Ryan, but at the same time, it feels like an almost perfect engagement.
3. Arizona Cardinals
The Cardinals got to the Super Bowl with Kurt Warner a few years ago, so why not chase down another established veteran quarterback to put together another strong run? Arizona’s defense got back on track down the stretch last year, and their running game should be solid with both Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams in the back-field in 2012. However, the kicker would be the connection between Manning and one of the league’s best receivers in Larry Fitzgerald.
The main chink in the armor of this one is Kevin Kolb, but he was horribly inconsistent in his debut season, and Arizona may jump at the opportunity to dump his huge contract.
4. Miami Dolphins
Miami is less likely than the top three, but they still have a shot and are reportedly very interested in obtaining Manning. It’d be pretty ironic for Manning to go to where Dan Marino used to play and accomplish something he couldn’t – win the big game. Manning would be walking into an offense that is re-dedicating itself to becoming more explosive. With Brandon Marshall and an improved running game around him, Manning could be the finishing touch to help that happen.
5. Washington Redskins
Mike Shanahan won his only two Super Bowls with an aged, but still effective, John Elway. Think he’d like to take a crack at another one with Peyton Manning? For the third year in a row, the Redskins will enter the off-season completely lost at quarterback, and they’ll have to come up with a pretty good answer to save Shanahan’s job – much less remain competitive in the increasingly tough NFC East.
Manning’s presence could change things, especially if the team adds some nice weapons to go with Santana Moss and Fred Davis. Washington is still rumored to be looking at all their options, which include Robert Griffin III, Matt Flynn, and Ryan Tannehill. Perhaps if made available, Manning will become option A.