At 12:00 eastern time today, the highest profile free agent in NFL history Peyton Manning and the owner of the Indianapolis Colts, Jim Irsay, will take seats in front of the media and announce their divorce from each other. A 14 year marriage that many thought would linger for another three or four years will come to an end and Manning will move on to another team like Hall of Fame QB’s Joe Montana, Joe Namath, and Brett Favre a future HOF’er.
Shortly after the Manning/Irsaay dissolution, Manning’s name will appear on the NFL waiver wire. He is not subject to waiver claims. He will immediately become a free agent and can then talk with, workout for, and sign with any team he wishes. It’s at that time that the Miami Dolphins 2012 free agency period will begin and you can bet that Miami would love nothing more than to be Petyon’s first, last, and only stop on his tour.
There will be competition of course and that competition will come from teams that we know about and teams we don’t. Here is a look at the teams who will pose a threat to the Dolphins landing the future HOF QB. It should be noted that while some teams have lukewarm interest, all interest will serve only to drive up the price for a QB who is expected to sign a more incentive contract than ever before.
Washington: The Redskins would love to land Manning and as Jerry Rice was quoted as saying, any team that signs Manning instantly becomes a 10-12 game winning team next season. The good: Washington isn’t afraid to spend money and will work to match almost any deal. The bad? Manning would be pitted against his brother twice a year and while sibling rivalry is great, I have heard that Peyton would much rather face his brother in one game and to do that he needs to be in the AFC. Washington also doesn’t provide Manning a whole lot more offensively or defensively. But the have a well respected head coach and do have a few pieces to work with and could add a couple more through the draft. CAP SITUATION: The Washington Redskins have the 3rd highest cap space in the NFL so a high end contract won’t be a problem.
Kansas City: The Chiefs have publicly said they would have interest in Manning and because of the public comments they were accused of tampering. The NFL will not pursue anything on that front nor will the Colts. The Good? Manning would come into a very weak division and have very little problem winning that division instantly returning to the playoffs and possibly bringing home field advantage to Arrowhead. The Chiefs also have a very good offensive structure in place with a top RB in Jamaal Charles when he is healthy and a big strong WR in Dwayne Bowe who was given the franchise tag. Defensively the team is getting better as well. The Bad? Aside from the outdoor stadium and late season cold temperatures, there really isn’t anything that would keep Manning from joining the Chiefs if they put on a full court press. Matt Cassell would become Manning’s back-up or he could be released in training camp if Manning proves 100% healthy. Salary Cap Situation: The Chiefs have the 2nd highest cap space available.
Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals spent a 2nd round draft pick, a huge contract, and a CB to get last years big name free agent Kevin Kolb. It didn’t work out well for them. Kolb was injured and when he did play didn’t look as though he was ready to lead an NFL team. A clause in Kolb’s contract could save the Cardinals from the long term deal but they would need to have another QB in place. The Cardinals are expected to deeply explore the Manning market but it will depend on what they can wiggle out of the Kolb deal. The good: The Cardinals have a solid WR corp and one of the NFL’s best in Larry Fitzgerald. They also play indoors which is something that Manning has been used to for 14 seasons and have a management staff eager to win. The bad: There are a lot of other holes on the team and an owner known to be frugal who may shy away from adding more money to a growing cap. Salary Cap Situation: According to the latest reports I could dig up, the Cardinals are about even in cap and would likely have to move some contracts to fit Manning in.
Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks are coming out as a top three choice to land Manning. They have an owner who wants to turn it around, a HC who needs to turn it around, and a fan base that is more rabid than the Colts who would welcome Manning with screaming open arms. The good: The Seahawks have a very good RB in Marshawn Lynch who just signed an extension, a solid but unspectacular defense, and play in a division that is void of competition outside of San Francisco. The Bad: The team is still trying to find it’s way and head coach Pete Carroll isn’t making the team a winner as quickly as fans and the owner would have liked. While the city gives Manning a great arena to play in, both figuratively and reality, Manning would be on the other side of the coast and that is something that he may not want to do with his family on the East coast. Salary Cap Situation: The Seahawks have about 13 million to spend but would likely need to make some roster moves to fit a Manning contract. (Those figures were before the Marshawn Lynch contract sot that number could go higher or lower depending on his base salary).
Other Notables: NY Jets – Will take a “look” but really have no money to spend and a system that is tied to Mark Sanchez. A complete overhaul would be necessary to bring Manning in and the days of Sanchez would be over for good. San Francisco – Despite the play of Alex Smith last year and the one game away from being in the playoffs, the team still hasn’t signed Smith to an extension and this is contract year. The 49’ers may or may not have real interest in Manning. Houston Texans – The Texans made it to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history and they did it with a back-up QB. Matt Schaub was injured most of last season but that won’t stop the Texans from exploring the possibility of adding Manning. They are not real competition for him, but their interest could help drive up the contract.
How it will shake out: The Dolphins free agency opens today and they are expected to pursue Manning hard. Washington, Seattle, and possibly Arizona appear to be their biggest competition and Kansas City could prove to be a hard obstacle to overcome if they truly get into the Manning sweepstakes. Manning will take his time so that he can drive up the contract. The more up front guaranteed money the better. Teams will take a long medical look at his shoulder and one of the biggest news stories will be what teams fall out of the Manning bidding after their medical advisers’ have had a look at Manning shoulder and nerve regeneration.
Manning is officially expected to become a free agent before 4:00 pm Eastern time today.