The inevitable happened on Wednesday: Peyton Manning was released by the Indianapolis Colts. There has always been a common belief that things change quickly in the NFL and you need not look any further for an example that proves this more than what has happened over the last handful of months with Manning and the Colts. If you were told a year ago (heck, even six months ago) that Peyton Manning would be released in the offseason, you would think that the person telling you was nuts. Well, it happened.
With Manning now free to sign with any team he chooses, he is arguably the most prominent NFL free agent of all-time. Only Reggie White back in 1993 rivals him. Quarterback hungry teams are obviously chomping at the bit.
So, the question is: Where will Peyton Manning end up? Before we get to that, here is a look at a few teams that are rumored that just do not make sense.
1. New York Jets: The Jets have been in a familiar position before when they cut Chad Pennington loose in favor of Brett Favre. Will history repeat itself? While the Jets have had some recent playoff success, their roster has arguably gotten worse. Let us not forget how much they have invested into starter Mark Sanchez either. Finally, does Peyton Manning really want to play in the same city as his brother Eli? It seems unlikely. (UPDATE: The Jets are out of the Manning race after Sanchez’s contract extension).
2. Washington Redskins: There is no doubt that owner Dan Snyder will pay Manning the most money. Heck, he may offer him a blank check. At this point, does money really matter that much to Manning, though? He has been the highest paid player and gets many endorsements. The Redskins have a solid defense but do not have a lot of offensive weapons. In the end, they would be better served trading up in the draft to get Robert Griffin III and building the franchise around him. (UPDATE: The Redskins are out of the Manning race after trading up to the #2 pick in the draft).
The Top Five Potential Destinations
5. Seattle Seahawks: It is pretty plain and simple: the Seahawks need a quarterback. They are a solid team in a weaker division so if they get Manning, they could challenge quickly. Are they better served going after Matt Flynn, though? Manning may take a good look at Seattle but there are better options.
4. Houston Texans: The Texans are the most intriguing team of them all. After finally making the playoffs last season, the Texans are a “now” team. They have a good offense, play in a dome and are now in a weaker division. These have to be desirables for Manning. He would be playing in the same division as his former team but he may relish that opportunity. The biggest question mark, however, is would they get rid of Matt Schaub for him? Schaub has been a good quarterback for the Texans but they won a playoff game last season with him injured. He has also had some injury problems in the past. As mentioned, the Texans are in a win now mode. Manning could put them over the top.
3. San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers surprised everyone last season with their 13-3 record before falling in the NFC Championship game. With Manning coming off of his surgeries, one has to think he would like to play in a dome or outside in nice weather. San Francisco offers the latter. For years now, Alex Smith has been a big question mark for the 49ers but he performed well last season. Is he the guy that can put them over the top? Time may tell. Coach Harbaugh wants him back but it is somewhat telling that he has not been signed yet. Watch out for the 49ers.
2. Miami Dolphins: It looks like the Dolphins may be a top landing spot for the future Hall of Famer. He has a place down there, he is good friends with Dan Marino, the team has some good offensive weapons, the city has great weather, the team would likely bring wide receiver Reggie Wayne along, as well, and the Dolphins have basically needed a quarterback since #13 retired. Does rookie head coach Joe Philbin, who is an offensive mind, want him? The Dolphins may be better served to go after Matt Flynn, who learned under Philbin in Green Bay. They must decide which one they want.
1. Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals finished 8-8 last season with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton at quarterback. Could you imagine the kind of success Peyton Manning would have in the desert with Larry Fitzgerald? Like the Dolphins, the Cardinals would most likely look to bring Reggie Wayne on board, as well. Look at what the Cardinals did just a few years ago with Kurt Warner. They have shown that they are right there and ready to break through. They just need a quarterback.
Peyton Manning has always been about one thing and that is winning. If he is truly healthy, he now has an opportunity to become the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two different franchises. Needless to say, this decision will not be easy.