Updated at 10:01 a.m. with report of Manning rejecting Miami and working out today for the Broncos. Updated again at 12:09 with report that Manning will throw for the Titans, too.
The suitors vying for Peyton Manning’s affections are losing some of their ardor as his exhaustive series of job interviews continues, but a former coach’s scouting report may reinvigorate them. At least two teams will see for themselves what he has left.
“It’s incredible how much progress he’s made in throwing the football,” David Cutcliffe told the Tennessean. Cutcliffe was Manning’s offensive coordinator at the University of Tennessee and now coaches at Duke, where Manning has been working out. “He’s gotten his arm strength back and his accuracy is there. I’m not an NFLcoach, of course, but I think I know what it takes to complete passes in the NFL, and it’s clear that Peyton can make all those throws.”
Which means he should be able to be a starter in the fall, right?
“From what I’ve seen, he’s right on target for that,” Cutcliffe said. “Everybody knows what a hard worker he is, and he’s dedicated himself to getting ready for the season.”
Now all Peyton — rhymes with waitin’ — has to do is decide where he’ll play. The next step in the process is to show teams that Cutcliffe’s assessment is correct. To that end, Manning, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, will work out today for the Denver Broncos, one of the finalists in this derby. Broncos officials are en route to Raleigh-Durham, N.C., where they’ll watch him at Duke’s indoor facility. Manning also will work out for the Titans, although a date is not yet set, according to the NFL Network’s Michael Lombardi.
It had been a four-team race, but two teams that Manning has visited — the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinals — were dropping on his list and the NFL Network’s Jeff Darlington reports that Manning had called the Dolphins to tell them to move along without him. They were anyway, bringing in Matt Flynn, Aaron Rodgers’s low-mileage backup in Green Bay, for a visit. First, Flynn is visiting the Seattle Seahawks, but he does have a relationship with Joe Philbin, the Dolphins’ new coach and former offensive coordinator in Green Bay.
For the Cardinals, there’s an impending issue involving Kevin Kolb. By 4 p.m. EDT today, they must decide whether to release him or pay him the $7 million he will be owed if he’s on the roster Saturday.
That leaves the Broncos and Titans as the frontrunners — although the only person who knows what Peyton Manning is thinking is Peyton Manning. And, of course, there’s also the chance that a team comes out of left field and lands him. Both Tennessee and Denver are all in, though, with the Titans signing guard Steve Hutchinson as a possible enticement and owner Bud Adams saying he wants Manning to be a Titan “for life,” salary-cap implications be damned.
As for Denver, even San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers wants Manning in the AFC West.
“I have to admit, and maybe people think I'm crazy, but I really hope it's Denver,” Rivers, who perhaps has not heard the expression “be careful what you wish for,” said in a radio interview.
“It would immediately make it that much tougher to win the West. Gosh, to play him twice a year, the AFC West would become a division that's not lost in the shuffle,” Rivers said. “I'm kind of hoping that's the case It's always fun to play a Peyton-led football team.”
Now, if he’ll just make up his mind...
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