Now that Peyton Manning is officially a free agent, the question is:
Is Peyton Manning our generation’s greatest free agent?
Can one player improve a team as much as Manning?
The first question has a tricky answer. The second is obvious.
Is he our generation’s greatest free agent? Could be. But maybe not. It actually depends on his neck. If he’s healthy, and from the reports, he’s doing quite well, he will be the biggest free agent. If he’s not healthy, he’ll be an above-average quarterback.
Can one player improve a team like Manning? Absolutely not. If he’s an eighth of the quarterback he was two years ago, he can take an average team and make them into a contender.
I believe ANY team with Manning is a Super Bowl contender. Look at what happened with the Colts. With Manning, Indianapolis was a perennial contender. Last year, without him, the Colts are the worst team in the NFL.
What’s nice about Manning’s situation is that he can pick his team. He’s earned his money. He has his championship. Now, it’s time for his swan song, so to speak.
The biggest question now remains, who will be interested in him?
Who knows how many teams will actually offer him a contract. But, there are 32 teams in the NFL. Let’s do a little math here. The Colts have already let him go, so now we’re down to 31. There are a few guys in the league, who, in my opinion, are untouchable. Let’s take the Saints (Drew Brees), Packers (Aaron Rodgers), Steelers (Ben Roethlisberger), Patriots (Tom Brady), Giants (the other Manning), Lions (Matthew Stafford) and Falcons (Matt Ryan) out of the equasion.
Now we’re down to 24 teams.
I believe both Carolina (Cam Newton) and Cincinnati (Andy Dalton) believe they have the quarterback of the future.
And I think that’s it. That leaves 22 teams. Will all 22 teams offer Manning a deal? No. I don’t expect a team like San Diego (Philip Rivers), Chicago (Jay Cutler), Philadelphia (Michael Vick), Baltimore (Joe Flacco), Buffalo (Ryan Fitzpatrick) or St. Louis (Sam Bradford) to go after him. Are those quarterbacks elite like the first group? No. Are they young prospects like the second group? Hardly. But they are just mediocre — and expensive — enough that teams will stick with them.
Even if we take out those teams, we’re left with 16 teams.
Those teams? Dallas, Washington, Minnesota, Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Arizona, Seattle, New York Jets, Miami, Cleveland, Houston, Tennessee, Jacksonville, Denver, Oakland and Kansas City.
Of those teams, Oakland has Caron Palmer, so let’s take them off the list. The Cowboys have Tony Romo and the Jets currently employ Mark Sanchez. We’ll take them off, as well. The Texans have Matt Schaub (although he’s coming off an injury) and T.J. Yates, so we’ll take them off the first list, as well.
That leaves the Redskins, Vikings, Buccaneers, 49ers, Cardinals, Seahawks, Dolphins, Browns, Titans, Jaguars, Broncos and Chiefs.
Washington is a train wreck. He’ll stay away. The Vikings could use him, but they have an aging defense, no real weapons and an Adrian Peterson who is coming off a major knee injury.
Tampa Bay is a team heading the wrong way. They do have Josh Freeman, and I can see them giving him another year or two.
I don’t think he’ll go to the Dolphins. Shoot, Brady has been a thorn in his side for years, so why would he want to see him twice a year?
The Browns should go younger and rebuild. They’ll be able to get a quality quarterback in this year’s draft.
The Titans have Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker, so it looks like their roster is a little too full, even though neither of those are very good options.
Jacksonville could be an option, and everyone knows they could use the attendance boost. But I don’t see it.
This leaves us five teams. I can see any of these teams landing Manning.
San Francisco would be a great place. With the defense they have, combined with the running game, the 49ers would be the favorites for the Super Bowl.
Arizona: Think of Manning and Larry Fitzgerald… Wow.
Seattle: No real options at quarterback, and in a weaker division, the Seahawks would be playoff contenders automatically.
Kansas City: Again, struggles at the quarterback position. Another weak division and a good, young receiver in Dwayne Bowe.
Denver: This is the most intriguing option of them all. Sure, they have Tim Tebow. He’s not a proven quarterback. Think of Manning leading a team with Elway upstairs. Denver has a good defense and established a running game late in the year, leaving Manning options.
I don’t know where Manning will end up. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he shocks us all.
All I know is no matter where he lands it’s a new chapter in the NFL. And there will be one very, very lucky team who just won the lottery.