The question on every NFL fan’s mind right now is: Where will superstar QB Peyton Manning end up playing the 2012 season? I present to you what I believe would be his 13 best options, after ruling out teams already having premier quarterbacks that we know for sure he’s not going to.
13. NFL Studios- No one is quite sure about Peyton’s health after a neck injury forced him to miss the entire 2011 season and he went through neck-fusion surgery. Perhaps the soon to be 36 year old should consider retiring, saving his body from receiving any more punishment, and spend his Sundays in a nice warn cushy TV studio? I know this isn’t the climax any sports fan wants at the end of this exciting sweepstakes, but maybe it’s the best option for Manning and his family?
12. Jacksonville Jaguars- Rookie QB Blaine Gabbert may have been the 10th overall pick in last year’s draft, but he looked awful in his first NFL season. Mike Thomas is a nice receiver, but that’s about where the roll call ends. HB Maurice Jones Drew is a stud, but could he and Manning co-exist, each used to being the focal point of the offense? Throw in a foot-in-mouth new owner, AFC South matchups against his former team and the powerhouse Houston Texans, and a stagnant fanbase, and Jacksonville doesn’t look like a very good option.
11. Seattle Seahawks- A receiving core of WR’s Sydney Rice, Mike Williams, Doug Baldwin, and Ben Obomanu, and TE Zack Miller is intriguing. If Tarvaris Jackson can make them look good, imagine what they could achieve with Manning at the helm. HB Marshawn Lynch is a beast and backup Justin Forsett isn’t too shabby either. Coach Pete Carroll would really allow Manning to air it out. But the competition in the NFC West is improving greatly. Facing the dominant Niners defense, the Sam Bradford-led Rams offense, and the Cardinals if they find a decent QB, doesn’t sound like a great way to come back from the rust of a season-long injury. Does anyone really want to play all the way up in Seattle?
10. Miami Dolphins- What could attract a near retirement athlete to sign with a team? Most likely family concerns. Peyton Manning already owns a home in the trendy paradise of Miami Beach. Brandon Marshall is a great WR and Davone Bess isn’t a bad #2. Reggie Bush is finally maturing into an NFL HB. I think Peyton’s competitive nature might actually like going head to head with playoff rival Tom Brady twice each regular season. The problem is, the Dolphins front office/ownership situation has been a mess for quite some time, and always seem to find a way to mess up in big negotiations.
9.New York Jets- Mark Sanchez is never going to be the guy who leads the Jets to much desired success. Rex Ryan is a passionate coach who wants to win almost as much as the Jet’s longsuffering fans. That passion was stoked even more with the Super Bowl win by their roommates the NY Giants. The defense is still pretty solid. The receiving core of WR’s Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress, and great TE Dustin Keller is so-so. Shonn Greene probably shouldn’t be the go-to guy in the running game. The main reason I don’t believe Manning will sign there is the atmosphere. Peyton’s not a fan of media scrutiny, yet he’d be under a microscope in high profile NY. Plus there’s the pressure to win now, without the necessary tools needed to achieve that goal. Plus playing in the same stadium as your kid brother who has one more ring than you wouldn’t ease off that pressure.
8. Tennessee Titans- Peyton Manning enjoyed huge celebrity while starring for the University of Tennessee. He’s still very highly regarded by football fans there. Titans owner Bud Adams has been vocal about wanting to sign Manning, wooing him with those same college memories. Chris Johnson is a stud running back. Kenny Britt, Nate Washinton, Damian Williams, and Jared Cook could potentially be an exciting group of receiving targets. The roster doesn’t have many other bright spots. And again, being in the AFC South would not be a great situation. The fans of his college days would love him for it, but it’s not a great fit for Manning.
7. Oakland Raiders- As far as I know, the Raiders aren’t looking for a QB, content with Carson Palmer for some reason. That being said, this would be a great place for Peyton Manning to sign. He’d have a fresh start out on the West Coast. He’d walk into a great situation, with an impressive young roster competing in a fairly mediocre division. San Diego are chronic underachievers and are watching their window for success fade away. Denver limped into the playoffs and won an impressive victory, before being handed a one-way ticket back to reality by Tom Brady and the Patriots. Kansas City is a joke. A Manning led Raiders team would dominate the AFC West. RB’s Darren McFadden and Michael Bush are spectacular. They have a cadre of speedy young receivers in Darrius Heyward-Bay, Denarius Moore, Jacoby Ford, and Louis Murphy. I think Peyton Manning would take this young team over the top, but I don’t think there’s any chance he ends up there.
6. Indianapolis Colts- Yes, I know the Colts officially released Peyton Manning, and their relationship with their franchise QB soured in the months leading up to it. But this is pro sports in 2012. The Colts could easily decide to offer Manning a reasonable, but not exorbitant contract, bringing him back to the team, stadium, teammates, and fans he has grown accustomed to, ending his career with the only NFL team he has ever suited up for. Andrew Luck hasn’t proved himself in the NFL yet, Peyton Manning has. I would not be shocked whatsoever if this happened. If the Colts ownership and front office made it look like they were humbling themselves in the public eye, I think Peyton would come back, rather than uproot himself and his family. There’s a reason he’s played there for as long as he has, and a reason he took the franchise tag last season. Change isn’t always good, especially not late in a career.
5. Atlanta Falcons- All having exciting players such as WR’s Roddy White and Julio Jones, dominate HB Michael Turner, and Hall of Fame bound TE Tony Gonzalez and 50 cents will get you is a cup of coffee if Matt Ryan is your quarterback. Ryan keeps proving he’s an adequate regular season QB, but is not the guy to get them out of the first round of the playoffs. Peyton Manning would certainly take the Falcons much further, but I haven’t heard anything about Atlanta seeking a new quarterback. Playing the Panthers and Bucs twice a year would be great, but who wants to compete for a division title with Drew Brees and the highflying Saints? Plus they might put more bounties on him.
4. Cincinnati Bengals- Andy Dalton had a good rookie season for the Bengals, and I think he’s a good QB. That being said, he’s not Peyton Manning, and never will be. I’m sure Cincinnati is planning on sticking with Dalton, but that’s the fun of the internet, we get to play with hypotheticals. Could you imagine Manning throwing to A.J. Green, Jerome Simpson, Jermaine Gresham, Andre Caldwell, etc, and handing the ball off to beastly Cedric Benson? The Bengals defense is very good as well. Peyton would have the best supporting cast he’d had in many years, if not ever. Cincinnati made the playoff without Manning. Imagine what they could do with him… I don’t see it happening, but I’d sure love to.
3. Arizona Cardinals- You saw the things Kurt Warner was able to do with the Cardinals, so a power QB can succeed in this offense. Larry Fitzgerald is one of the league’s best receivers, and when healthy, Beanie Wells is a great back. The defense isn’t what it used to be. The O-Line is still atrocious. There are the same divisional concerns as with Seattle, having to play the Rams and Niners, and I don’t think even Manning would make the Cardinals the favorite to win the division. I don’t see Manning ending up in Arizona. Kevin Kolb is not the answer for the Cards either, with John Skelton being the best in-house option, and someone like Matt Flynn more on their radar.
2. San Francisco 49ers- The San Francisco 49ers were one of the league’s best teams in 2011, but mostly because of their dominating defense and hardnosed running game. They made it to overtime of the NFC Championship with Alex Smith at QB. Could you imagine how great they’d be with Peyton Manning under center? This was Smith’s only good season statistically, and he’ll never be the guy to get them over the proverbial hump. This would be a great situation for Manning to step into. The defense and Frank Gone make the QB’s job easy. Vernon Davis is one of the best tight ends in the game. Manning would instantly make the Niner’s other receivers better, and maybe even bring back the explosiveness of just signed WR Randy Moss. The divisional concerns I mentioned about the NFC West wouldn’t really apply, since they are the main concern, and their defense can handle Sam Bradford. This would be Peyton’s second best chance at walking into a Super Bowl contender to win his second ring with.
1. Houston Texans- There has been no indication that Houston is looking for a new QB. The Texans were the second most dominate team of the regular season. They would have been one of the favorites to make the Super Bowl had QB Matt Schaub not gotten hurt. They performed admirably with rookie T.J. Yates filling in. All that being said, I refer to my previous argument, neither of those guys are Peyton Manning. With Manning under center, Houston would instantly go from being “a” Super Bowl favorite to “the” Super Bowl favorite. This is a young team with a lot of exciting players. HB Arian Foster is the best player in the league. Backup Ben Tate would be starting for almost any team that didn’t have Foster. Andre Johnson is the best WR in the game. Owen Daniels is one of the better tight ends in the league. They have the most improve defense in the league. Without Manning in Indy, the rest of the AFC South is putrid. With or without Manning on their team, Houston may not lose a game within their division for years to come. While many of the NFL’s other playoff teams are aging rapidly, the Houston Texans are a team on the rise, poised to take over the league. I don’t think Houston is looking to make a change at QB, but if they are, Peyton would be a fool not to answer the call.
Denver Broncos- Despite the opinions of a lot of so-called media experts, I don’t believe Manning will end up in Denver, and that's why I left them off my list. It would be a great fit for Manning. Denver has an excellent defense led by LB Von Miller. They have a speedy pair of young receivers in Eric Decker and Demarius Thomas, and Manning could make Eddie Royal relevant again. They have talented RB's in Willis McGahee, Lance Ball, and Knowshon Moreno, with the O-line to spring them. They have a loyal fanbase desperate for someone to finally fill the shoes of John Elway, and Elway himself running the team, desperate for the great passing game he once gave the team. But the team invested a lot into Tim Tebow, gave him the job, and allowed their fanbase to fall in love with Tebowmania. And Tebow did win them a playoff game. They’d be shooting themselves in the foot by replacing him. He may not be the best passer in the league, but his speedy young receivers make his passing better than it is, and his defense gives him a good shot every time. What Tebow has are intangibles, the magic that allows him to perform miraculous last second drives. He’ll never be as good a passer as Peyton Manning, but I don’t see Denver replacing him with Manning either. If they did though, I see Tebow resurfacing in either Miami or Jacksonville.
All that being said, where do I think highly sought after free agent QB Peyton Manning will end up for the 2012 season?
Peyton Manning will most likely end up in Miami, Arizona, Tennessee, or San Fran, with San Fran being the favorite if they decide to court him, and Tennessee if they don’t, unless of course the way is paved for him to return to Indy…
©2012 Denim McDemus