The story of the NFL offseason is expected to reach a higher pitch sometime today as the Indianapolis Colts are expected to part ways with quarterback Peyton Manning — the face of the franchise for the last 14 years.
Manning — working his way back from multiple neck surgeries and a year on the sideline — is reportedly on the mend and expected to draw interest from a nice collection of quarterback-needy teams, including the Washington Redskins. Other expected suitors are the Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets.
Mike Shanahan & Co. are expected to go hard at Manning, according to people with knowledge of the situation. Shanahan’s two Super Bowl victories in Denver are a distant memory, and the coach badly needs to win in Year 3 of his Redskins reclamation project after posting an 11-21 mark over the last two seasons.
Shanahan gave Donovan McNabb a try in his first season at the helm, but that experiment failed badly. But Shanahan isn’t afraid of rolling the dice on another star quarterback turned cast-off. Manning’s situation contrasts drastically from that of McNabb, whose game had started to decline to the point where the Eagles didn’t mind trading him to a divisional rival.
Manning’s game hasn’t dropped off, and given his work habits and ability to dissect defenses on film and pick them apart on the field, the belief is that if healthy, he can continue to play at a high level and thus elevate Washington’s struggling offense. And based on the latest reports, Manning has made significant strides in his recovery.
But why would Manning want to come to Washington? Shanahan’s rep as a two-time Super Bowl champ serves as a bonus, and the Redskins are expected to pursue a big-play wide receiver in free agency. Manning in place would help make luring the likes of Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston or Manning’s Colts teammate, Pierre Golston, that much easier.
Another plus: the Redskins have a strong and improving defense, something Manning often lacked in Indianapolis. And of course, the Redskins — more than $40 million under the salary cap — have cash to throw at Manning.
There are questions as to how Shanahan and Manning — both dominant personalities — would mesh. Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan like to run a carefully scripted offensive attack, and Manning, although he studies and prepares like no one else, is known for basically serving as his own offensive coordinator who comes to the line and changes plays multiple times. Manning would want the same control, but people with knowledge of the Redskins’ thinking believe that both Mike and Kyle Shanahan would willingly tailor the offense to Manning and give him great freedom. There’s also debate about how fond Manning would be about playing in the same division as his brother, Eli, quarterback of the New York Giants.
The Redskins face stiff competition in their pursuit of Manning.
Miami appears to be the front-runner. Manning has a home in that area, and the Dolphins have talented wideouts in Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess, as well as a play-making running back in Reggie Bush.
The Jets are probably closer to win-now mode than any of the teams with known interest in Manning. True, they have Mark Sanchez, but the USC product hasn’t continued to develop as the Jets had hoped. New York has playmakers at running back and receiver (Santonio Holmes leads the way) and a strong defense.
But of all the teams after Manning, none boasts a dominant wide receiver like the Arizona Cardinals, who will use Larry Fitzgerald as a lure. The team also has a promising running back in Beanie Wells. The Cardinals just signed Kevin Kolb last offseason, but he disappointed greatly, and the team appears ready to part ways with him.
The Chiefs just used the franchise tag on wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, and Coach Romeo Crennel indicated that his squad will make a run at Manning as well. The team is a little short on playmakers after Bowe, and Seattle might not have as much talent to entice Manning with, either.
In talking to people around the league, the belief is that Manning could go to any team he wishes and instantly turn that squad into a playoff team. We’ll find out who wins the sweepstakes before too long.
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