Word came out of Indianapolis Tuesday that Peyton Manning will be cut by the Colts, confirming what everyone already knew. With video leaking that Manning’s arm strength has progressed significantly over the past weeks, this seems like a good time to try and figure out where Manning’s going in 2012. When a QB of this talent hits the market, every single team should consider signing him. So let’s look at all 32 NFL teams and figure out their odds at bringing Peyton Manning into the fold.
No Way, No How
32. Indianapolis Colts. That ship has sailed.
31. New York Giants. Talk about awkward.
30. Green Bay Packers. No discount double-check here.
29. New England Patriots. Belichick + Manning = must watch TV.
28. Carolina Panthers. Cam’s the present and future.
27. Pittsburgh Steelers. Number 7 is locked in.
26. San Diego Chargers. Rivers is signed long-term.
25. Detroit Lions. Stafford isn’t going anywhere.
24. Dallas Cowboys. But don’t tell Cowboys fans that.
23. Atlanta Falcons. Ryan under contract for two more years.
22. Chicago Bears. Ditto for Cutler.
Absolutely Not … Right?
21. New Orleans Saints. What if Brees doesn’t sign? Wouldn’t happen anyway.
20. St. Louis Rams. If Bradford means no RG3, it also means no Manning.
19. Cincinnati Bengals. Dalton proved capable in Year One.
18. Buffalo Bills. You don’t play in Buffalo ’cause you want to.
17. Cleveland Browns. See Buffalo Bills.
16. Oakland Raiders. They just don’t have the cap room to make it work.
15. Houston Texans. If no money for Mario, no money for Manning.
Maybe, Just Maybe
14. San Francisco 49ers. The 49ers have the room, and they could conceivably bring Manning in and become if not NFC favorites, then a near lock for a first-round bye. However, he’s not likely to buy into Jim Harbaugh’s offense, and the team seems interested in bringing Alex Smith back.
13. Baltimore Ravens. Is Flacco good enough to take this team to the Super Bowl? The window is shutting fast on this aging defense. If extension talks with Flacco aren’t close, the Ravens have to consider bringing in a guy with Manning’s track record and making one more push.
12. Minnesota Vikings. On the surface, this looks like it could be a good fit. The Vikings have been struggling at the QB position for years, save for a Brett Favre renaissance a few years back. However, the team just spent a high pick on Christian Ponder, and they don’t have much cap room for Manning.
11. Philadelphia Eagles. There’s speculation that the Eagles are the mystery team involved with the Rams for RG3. They’re obviously in win-now mode, but if they can’t secure a new franchise QB in Griffin, it’s unlikely they’d trade one damaged QB (Vick) for another. Can you really count them out though?
On the Radar
10. New York Jets. Despite news coming out Tuesday that the Jets are very interested in signing Manning, this isn’t a match made in Heaven. The Jets are likely going to be up against the cap throughout the offseason, they have a young QB in Mark Sanchez who probably deserves at least one more year, and most importantly, Manning himself doesn’t want to play in New York. Sorry Jet fans, but it ain’t happening.
9. Tennessee Titans. Despite receiving mediocre QB play from Matt Hasselbeck and virtually nothing from Chris Johnson, the Titans came dangerously close to making the playoffs last year. Manning spent his college years at the University of Tennessee, and the state would obviously embrace his return. However, Jake Locker looked good enough last year that QB isn’t likely a priority for the Titans right now.
8. Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jags should have a lot of cap space and would happily bring Manning and Reggie Wayne to the team (there’s speculation that the pair is a package deal). Unlike Locker and Ponder, Blaine Gabbert looked awful every step of the way, and the team should already be looking for a potential replacement. Manning doesn’t figure to want to play for such a bad team though, and he’ll likely try and avoid a road tip to Indianapolis if possible.
7. Denver Broncos. Tim Tebow is all the rage in Denver, but even the most ardent Tebow supporters would have to concede that a healthy Peyton Manning gives the Broncos a far better chance at winning a title. If I were John Elway, I’d do whatever I can to bring Manning in and then trade Tebow to Jacksonville, who would figure to embrace the former Gator. Alas, the NFL isn’t a fantasy team, and that kind of move is nearly impossible to pull off.
Now We’re Talking
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs may have the most cap room in the NFL, when all is said and done. They view WR Mike Williams as more of a No. 2. If they’re looking to make a splash, they have to consider the Manning-Wayne combination. Josh Freeman hasn’t worn out his welcome yet, though, and the signing of Manning would seem to go away from the new coaching philosophy as well as the team’s youth-heavy nucleus.
5. Seattle Seahawks. Seattle has to do something at the QB position. The problem is that they have virtually no shot at one of the premier rookies. They also don’t stand a great chance at reeling in a marquee free-agent QB, especially since the general manager is on record as saying the team won’t make a “panic move” to address the QB situation. They’ll likely give rookie Ryan Tannehill a good look in the draft.
4. Kansas City Chiefs. The Chiefs reportedly want to bring competition in for Matt Cassel this offseason, which is the nice way of saying that 2009 trade and extension was a big mistake. Forget competition, how about bringing in one of the best QBs of our generation? The West is winnable, the Chiefs have excellent playmakers in Jamaal Charles and Dwayne Bowe, and Manning could step right in and run his offense. Don’t count this team out.
3. Washington Redskins. The Redskins have the cap room, they have a huge need at QB, and owner Dan Snyder has a history of making it rain in free agency, so this is a perfect landing spot, right? Not quite. Manning’s improvisational skills at the line probably wouldn’t mesh well with offensive “mastermind” Mike Shanahan, and the Redskins are in the driver’s seat to move up and draft RG3 at No. 2 overall. Logic and reason win out for the Redskins this year.
2. Miami Dolphins. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride, the Dolphins have been jilted at the altar by various free agents and coaches over the past few years. Will Manning be the next runaway bride? It’s possible the Dolphins offer the best contract, but Manning may spurn them anyway. Playing in the AFC East means trying to topple the Patriots, and playing for the Dolphins would also mean a road trip to Indianapolis this year. If the money’s close, Manning will likely save himself that agony and pass on the Dolphins’ proposal.
1. Arizona Cardinals.
The Cardinals owe Kevin Kolb a $7 million signing bonus on March 17, but if the organization moves quickly on Manning, Kolb’s not likely to see a penny. Committing to Arizona puts Manning in an indoor stadium in a winnable division with one of the best WRs in the game. He’d be given complete control of the offense. Former Colts QB coach Frank Reich is on the staff with Arizona this year as the WR coach, and a familiar face makes Arizona that much more appealing.
They should have the cap room to get a deal done, and it wouldn’t shock to see both Manning and Reggie Wayne take a little bit less money to stay together. As a No. 1 WR, Wayne may be past his prime. As a No. 2? Golden. The schedule looks tough for Arizona, with road games against the Patriots, Jets and Packers coming up next season. You know who else has to play those teams on the road? San Francisco.
A Peyton Manning signing makes the Cardinals relevant in the NFC after an 8-8 season in 2011, and they would likely become the favorites in the NFC West. If the Cardinals spend a pick on a ready-to-play right tackle (Riley Reiff?), sign Wayne to take pressure off Fitzgerald, and add Peyton Manning to play QB, they’re extremely dangerous. Better yet, they may be able to wrangle a second-round pick out of a QB starved team like the Seahawks for Kevin Kolb, which they could then use on another key piece.
It’s obviously impossible to know exactly what’s going to happen when offers get exchanged, but taking everything into consideration, the Cardinals look like the favorites to me.
R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and Razzball and has previously written for FanHouse. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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