The Peyton Manning courtship has begun with the Washington Redskins and a reported 11 other teams reaching out to the star quarterback’s representatives in hopes of luring him to their franchises.
The Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Kansas City Chiefs and Denver Broncos, among others, are said to be in pursuit of Manning. But the question really is which destination Manning prefers.
Meticulous in everything he does, Manning will make his decision after careful consideration. Coming out of college, Manning came to the NFL Combine for team interviews and ended up peppering them with questions about their franchises. He will likely adopt the same careful approach as he faces free agency for the first time in his career.
Here’s a look at the teams believed to be leading the Manning hunt, as well as the pros and cons of each situation.
Pros: The Dolphins boast playmakers such as Brandon Marshall and Davone Bess at the receiver position, and Reggie Bush at running back. Four-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jake Long could protect Manning’s blind side. Miami has an offensive minded first-year coach in Joe Philbin, and an innovative offensive coordinator in Mike Sherman. Add a defense that ranked sixth-best in the NFL, limiting opponents to 19.6 points a game, and Manning would join a well-rounded roster in need of only a quarterback. Manning also has a home in the Miami area.
Cons: Would Manning want to play for a rookie head coach? The Dolphins play in the AFC East, which means Manning would have to share the division with rival Tom Brady, facing him twice a year.
Chances: High. Right now, the Dolphins appear to be the front-runners in the Manning chase. Playing in a warm-weather location could prove attractive for Manning, who played all of his home games in a dome for 13 years.
Pros: Denver, whose interest in Manning publicly surfaced late Wednesday, reached the playoffs with a rather limited Tim Tebow at quarterback. With a strong defense and running game, the Broncos figure to make dramatic strides forward with Manning at QB. Coach John Fox is willing to do what it takes to win; scrapping a traditional offense for the spread attack that played to Tebow’s strengthslast season is evidence of that. Manning likely could waltz in with his offense and run the show.
Cons: Tebow remains a popular figure with fans despite his limitations, so signing Manning might upset some of them. Playing in the elements of the Mile High City could be a drawback for Manning.
Chances: Good. A CBS Sportsline report, which cites sources who had been in contact with Manning’s agent, said the Broncos ranked among the quarterback’s top three. Manning is said to favor remaining in the AFC, and Denver would satisfy that. The 36-year-old quarterback wants to win, not spend years waiting for a team to develop around him. The Broncos also seem to meet that requirement.
New York Jets
Pros: Another team in win-now mode, the Jets have playmakers like Santonio Holmes, Shonn Green and Dustin Keller, and boast a top-five defense. New York made the playoffs in back-to-back years before last year’s disappointing 8-8 campaign. Manning at quarterback would certainly ignite an inconsistent offense. Playing for the Jets means Manning would play in a major market, and share the stadium with his brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning. Yet it would keep them in separate conferences. Coach Rex Ryan is a free-spirit who likely would be content to turn the reins of the offense over to Manning as well.
Cons: The Jets have Mark Sanchez – whom they drafted fifth overall in 2009 – at quarterback, and although he struggled with consistency and drew criticism from teammates, the team has made a significant investment in him. The Jets also are limited financially, and would have to do some maneuvering to land Manning.
Chances: Good. It wouldn’t be at all shocking for the Jets to pull it off. But given their financial constraints, and the investment in Sanchez, there is uncertainty.
Pros: Mike Shanahan has two Super Bowl rings as a head coach and a body of work that includes successful runs with Steve Young, John Elway, Jake Plummer and Jay Cutler. The Redskins have a strong defense, an owner willing to spend and more than $40 million of cap space, which would enable them to pursue Manning, a big-play wide receiver and a right tackle to solidify the offensive line.
Cons: There are questions as to how well Shanahan, offensive Kyle Shanahan and Manning could work together. The quarterback likes to be in charge, and in Indianapolis, he called the shots on everything from how practice would be run to his press conferences. Having seen clashes between the Shanahans and Donovan McNabb could worry Manning. He also might see playing his brother twice a season in the same division as a drawback. And although the Redskins hope to add pieces in free agency, right now those are just hopes.
Chances: Moderate. Although some believe Manning would seriously consider the Redskins because of Shanahan’s resume, and Washington is poised to upgrade the offense in free agency, the team doesn’t seem to present as many positives as others do.
Pros: Manning would be able to throw to one of the league’s top wide receivers, Larry Fitzgerald. He also would have the support of a talented young running back in Beanie Wells. The Cardinals have had success with an older quarterback, Kurt Warner, and certainly would welcome Manning. Like Miami, Arizona could appeal to Manning as a warm climate destination.
Cons: Arizona’s defense is pretty average, and outside of Fitzgerald and Wells, there’s not as much for Manning to work with. The team also made a significant investment in Kevin Kolb last season. He struggled and John Skelton finished out the season with more success. But are the Cardinals really ready to dump their prize free agent signing from a year ago?
Chances: Moderate. Although Fitzgerald and Wells make the Cardinals attractive, they don’t compare to some of the other situations at Manning’s finger tips.
Kansas City Chiefs
Pros: The Chiefs have a talented collection of receivers in Dwayne Bowe, Jonathan Baldwin and Steve Breaston, and they went 7-9 with three different quarterbacks – Matt Cassel, Tyler Palko and Kyle Orton --under center at various times during the season. Like the Jets and Dolphins, the Chiefs are in the AFC.
Cons: Manning would automatically make the Chiefs better, but other teams seem closer to winning right away.
Chances: Low. It could be Joe Montana all over again, but Kansas City doesn’t seem high on the list of teams expected to draw serious interest from Manning.
Pros: San Francisco leads the way in the NFC West, but throw Manning in a Seahawks uniform and things could become rather interesting. Seattle has significant cap space and could afford Manning without much maneuvering. The Seahawks just re-signed Marshawn Lynch to offer support with a solid rushing attack.
Cons: Adding Manning would go against the approach the Seahawks have taken – building patiently with young talent through the draft. Like the Redskins, they are in more of a re-building stage rather than a win-now mode.
Chances: Low. Seattle’s youth and rebuilding process could cause the veteran to shy away. Time isn’t on Manning’s side, and Seattle likely is better off continuing its youth movement, whether that means drafting a quarterback this year or trying to get Coach Pete Carroll’s former USC quarterback, Matt Barkley, next year.
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