The players: Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, RGIII, Andrew Luck, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Tannehill
The Teams: Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, Indianapolis Colts, St. Louis Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs.
Kansas City Chiefs – While the Chiefs are not expected to make a run in the draft early for a QB, they are showing interest and possibly tampering interest in Peyton Manning. A report at the outset of the NFL Combine suggested that the Chiefs have been in contact with Manning’s agent. A n0-no in the NFL although it’s unlikely to be proven. The Chiefs have more than a marginal interest in Manning and can give him more than what any of the other teams in the hunt can. He would start in a very weak division that would almost assuredly allow him to return to the playoffs immediately. The Chiefs have more cap space than any other NFL team at around 35 million. In addition, Manning would not have to face his brother like he would if he went to Washington. The KC situation will be one worth watching.
Washington Redskins – Rumors out of Indianapolis are showing a high degree of interest from the Skins for RGIII in a trade up. So much so that according to several media I spoke with, the Skins will do “almost whatever it takes” to land him. One Washington guy I spoke with said that the Skins will try and work out a trade for the 2 spot prior to the start of free agency to assure themselves they will not have to look at FA as priority for a QB. (Failure to land a QB in FA will drive up the price for the 2 spot according to the person). Aside from the RGIII interest, the Skins have lukewarm interest in Matt Flynn and are starting to steer away from the Manning group although it Washington everything can change with owner Daniel Snyder calling the shots. If the Redskins fail to move up to the number 2 overall pick from pick 6, don’t be surprised if they don’t throw that 6 pick to Ryan Tannehill. Despite the teams other needs, the fact is they need a QB in a bad way like the others mentioned and Tannehill, while a surprise, is still viewed as a first round talent and that means he could go 6th overall.
Indianapolis Colts – The Colts hold the keys to Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning. While it is a foregone conclusion that Manning will be released, Jim Irsay is not saying one way or the other and if his Colts decide to keep Manning, they will likely still draft Andrew Luck number 1 overall. The latest rumor out of the Combine is that the Colts have indeed decided that the first pick will be used on Luck regardless of what RGIII does this week or at his pro-day workout prior to the draft.
Seattle Seahawks – The Hawks are quietly going about their business but rumors say they have interest in Peyton Manning and could be the top team to land him, as well as a player in the Matt Flynn race, as well as holding a major interest in RGIII. The Hawks’ are a dangerous team this off-season as they don’t appear to have a set plan of attack. It appears more that they will go after one, then another, and if they fail in FA will throw it all at St. Louis possibly for RGIII. Some call them a surprise team to watch in terms of making a blockbuster trade similar to the one Atlanta made last year with Cleveland to get Julio Jones. The Hawks’ however may not be able to part with enough picks over the next two or three years to make the move up in the draft, if they do not take care of their QB needs in FA with either Manning or Flynn, they will likely turn their attention to either Ryan Tannehill if he is still there or turn their attention to Brandon Weeden in round 2. The Seahawks pick 12th.
Cleveland Browns – Of all the team listed above, this is the one to me that needs to be watched. While Peyton Manning is not a target of the Browns, Matt Flynn is and they could literally control what happens in the draft. If the Browns land Flynn, they will not be in the market to move up for RGIII. The Dolphins who sit at 8 may not have the willingness to part with the requested bounty of picks to move up to number 2 for RGIII. That would leave Washington and Seattle dueling it out with St. Louis. With the price for Seattle being so steep, the Redskins may be the only true player in the RGIII game. If that happens, the price for number 2 will drop and the Skins could wait until the 3rd pick and deal with the Vikings as it is expected the Rams will take T Matt Kalil if a trade can’t be worked out. Of course the Browns may not land Flynn. In that case, they are one of the most likely landing spots for RGIII owning two first round picks this year. Some believe that it will take an additional second round pick to make the move up to 2. The Browns would likely do just that.
Regardless, what the Browns do or don’t do in free agency will dictate the main players and likely the price in the number 2 overall pick sweepstakes.
The Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins are really the only team that is consistently rumored to be a landing spot for everyone but Andrew Luck (given the fact he will be a Colt). They are rumored to be enamored with RGIII but the cost is almost entirely prohibitive. They are rumored to be the to landing spot for Matt Flynn but no one really knows what Joe Philbin’s opinion of the QB is or if the Dolphins truly view him as their franchises future. They are the team that is still “likely” to land Peyton Manning. Let’s start with free agency.
The Dolphins are expected to make a splash at the position in free agency if they can. If they do, then what happens in the draft is moot. The same yes could be said about all the teams. Free agency is the first and best chance to land a QB for all the teams but for the Dolphins, it might be the best chance period. Unlike the Redskins and Browns, they will be hard pressed to move up to number 2 and there is no guarantee that a guy like Ryan Tannehill will be around when they pick in the 8th spot.
Obviously the only two names being talked about are Flynn and Manning and while Manning gets the I-95 billboard begging for him to join the Dolphins, Flynn is the more known commodity to Philbin and his staff when compared to the uncertainty with Manning’s arm. The issue here is that Manning may not be cleared to sign a deal before the draft or at the start of free agency making it more difficult for team to wait for him. For the Dolphins, the fact that Manning owns a condominium on Southbeach and he and his wife love the Miami area, bodes well when you add an owner who is willing to do whatever it takes to land him.
When free agency settles and teams prep for the draft what they do in free agency will be the keys to what happens in the draft. For the Dolphins, as I said, losing out in free agency could make it far more difficult to draft a QB. Depending on where the others go in the draft. A worst case scenario is Manning not being cleared to sign a deal, Matt Flynn ending up in Seattle, Cleveland moving up to take RGIII leaving the Redskins to ponder Tannehill at 6. If that happens, the Dolphins would be out of options and likely have to look to round 2 for a QB to compete with Matt Moore and then hope that Manning will recover and get clearance to resume practicing with full contact. At that point only the Dolphins and Chiefs would be in play. Still, the Chiefs can afford to wait considering they have no desire to draft a front end QB this year. Miami could very well be on the outside of all those teams looking in.
That is why free agency is so important and specifically Matt Flynn. He is the only healthy option in free agency for the Dolphins but with Flynn comes the risk of not knowing what he will be as a full time starter and a costly mistake if he fails. Flynn would allow the Dolphins to address another need with the first round pick and maybe look at another QB in round 2 or 3. While Manning is a viable option, the Dolphins would equally be taking a risk that he can return in his late 30′s to be the QB he used to be. Another costly mistake if they sign him or wait for him and he never fully recovers. Finally, waiting for the draft could be the riskiest move of them all depending on who goes where in free agency, or who doesn’t.