But as the deadline nears and the potential suitors ponder lining up, the most relevant issue is not which teams will have interest in Manning. The biggest question is where would he be willing to play. This time, after all, the choice will be his.
When it comes to the Redskins, would Manning be willing to sign with a team that has only 11 wins in Coach Mike Shanahan’s two seasons, doesn’t seem to have the other necessary pieces for offensive success and couldn’t make things work with the last highly regarded veteran quarterback it brought in?
Opinion around the league is divided. The person who recalled Manning’s rookie interview said he would expect the quarterback, now only weeks from his 36th birthday, to be equally inquisitive and discerning this time around.
“He will have studied each organization and he’ll have a list of questions for every one of them,” said that person, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the deliberations. “He’ll look for a team that’s competitive and balanced. He’ll look for an established coach and a stable organization. I don’t know that he’d want to go into an unstable situation.”
Less comfort in NFC East
What does that mean for the Redskins? They are coming off a season in which they went 5-11 and finished in last place in the NFC East. They didn’t have a 1,000-yard receiver and surrendered 41 sacks, tied for 11th-most in the league.
“Do the Redskins have a wide receiving corps where you look at it and say I want to throw to them? No,” said former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann, an analyst for the NFL Network. “Do they have an offensive line where a pocket passer like him can feel comfortable standing back there? No.”
Theismann said it makes more sense for Manning to sign with the Arizona Cardinals (leaving the Redskins to trade up in the NFL draft to select Baylor’s Robert Griffin III). In Arizona, Manning would have a superb wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, Theismann said, and would play his home games in a retractable-roof stadium, the same sort of passing-friendly environment he had while playing indoors in Indianapolis.
“If you look at the NFC East, every team plays outside except for Dallas,” Theismann said. “With Peyton, he has played in a dome upwards of 10 games a year. It won’t be that way if you go to the NFC East. . . . Even if his neck is healed, you’re talking about regaining arm strength and demonstrating that’s there. I would think he would want to go into a more controlled environment.”