Anyone who didn’t know this day would eventually come was kidding themselves.
Everyone in the back of their mind had to have known once the Colts were guaranteed the first overall pick in April’s draft that at some point before the March 8th the two sides would in all likelihood part ways.
Yesterday it was reported and today it will be made official, but #18 will no longer be wearing the horseshoe on his helmet.
Now I’m no Colts fan, but as a fan of the NFL, this is a sad day. Manning is not only one of the best players ever to step on an NFL field, but he is a different breed. Peyton wasn’t your normal run-of-the-mill super-star. He’s humble, enjoys the small market and is (the biggest shock of all) loyal. There is no doubt that Peyton wanted to finish his career in Indianapolis and with that kind of loyalty being so rare in professional sports these days, it would have been cool to see. That said, as bittersweet at this is, it is the right decision.
For me, Peyton has been a Colt for just about as long as I can remember. I was nine years old when they drafted him out of Tennessee and was just starting to really get into football. Prior to those years it was merely a thoughtless endeavor to watch football. Peyton has been a huge part of the NFL as long as I have actively followed it, and quite frankly, it almost seems not right that come late August he will be suiting up for a preseason game with a new team. He is one of the few remaining NFL players that I can say have been in the game for over half of my life, so Colts fan or not, this is understandably a bittersweet day for football fans.
As far as the business side of it goes, this was the right decision. It’s just impossible to justify paying someone $28 million who is coming off of multiple neck surgeries and a year on the sideline recuperating. It doesn’t matter who you are or how much effort you put into your rehab. It’s simple science that when you are 36 and have been through what Manning has in the last year and a half, along with the collection of hits he has taken over the years, you start to wear down.
Now I still believe Peyton has some years of quality football left, but to pay someone that sum of money with an uncertain future is not smart business and Jim Irsay cannot be blamed for that.
You also have the ever-growing hype of Andrew Luck floating around. The media can stir the pot all they want so they have something to talk about between now and daft day, but I would be beyond shocked if the Colts actually selected Robert Griffin III over Luck. They both have great potential, but lets be serious, Luck is coming off the board #1 and that is that.
If the Colts were to hypothetically have chosen to bring Manning back and wait on taking the quarterback of the future, there is a very slim chance they would be in a position to have the #1 overall draft pick again at least until Manning retired. Let’s face it, Peyton alone would have won the colts (who I think would have been extremely mediocre last year even with manning) at LEAST four or five games last season.
That scenario simply wouldn’t ever happen though because Jim Irsay might be exiled from football if he actually passed on taking Andrew Luck as his QB of the future.
The other option was to draft Luck and pay (or re-sign for less) Manning. This also wasn’t going to happen, as Peyton made it very clear that he didn’t want both of them on the roster. It’s not that he didn’t want to groom a quarterback, but he felt in today’s NFL, if you are taken first overall, you should play immediately or at least at some point in your rookie season. There is simply too much stock being put into a 1st overall draft pick to have them not see the field.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that if you take emotion and people’s feelings out of this, that the decision that Jim Irsay and Peyton Manning have come to is the correct one. At the end of the day the NFL is a business and this was the smarted business decision for both sides. In a good world, Peyton will have the chance to go play somewhere with a decent supporting cast and make them look way better than they are for three to five years and the Colts will look for Andrew Luck to make it two franchise quarterbacks in 25-30 years.
With the two sides parting ways, Manning is set to become one of, if not the most highly sought after free agents in NFL history. There has been months of speculation as to where Peyton could land, so I thought I’d throw some of my thoughts out there.
My friend Ryan wrote an article at the end of the football season looking at all 32 teams and who was likely to wind up scoring Manning and I quite frankly disagreed with his view, which I told him upon reading it. He believed the two places that would be the best suitors for Manning would be San Francisco and Baltimore.
Are these the two teams that Peyton could have the best chance at another Lombardi trophy? Absolutely.
They just simply won’t happen. San Francisco makes more sense to me than Baltimore, as Alex Smith is a free agent, but even so, Alex Smith had a very solid season with a rather underwhelming group of receivers aside from Vernon Davis and came so close to leading them to the Super Bowl. I’m not sure if last season was a fluke and Alex Smith will return to bust status next year, but he seemed to finally find his niche with coach Jim Harbaugh, so why not build around him instead of messing with that teams chemistry. The 49ers are set up to dominate the extremely weak NFC West for the near future, so why spend the extra money to sign Manning when you can go out and build other positions up.
Would Peyton make them better? Certainly, but I don’t think It’s enough to justify paying the extra money he would command.
As for the Ravens, I mean, just no. Being in Baltimore, it is way easier to know that this won’t happen. There is less than a 1% chance that Ozzie Newsome actually makes this move.
Joe Flacco is still a young quarterback and while he may have a ceiling, he has done absolutely nothing to justify giving up on him yet. His competition percentage was dismal last season, but he also lost his two favorite targets heading into the season in Derrick Mason and Todd Heap.
Over the last four seasons, the Ravens have won in part because of Joe Flacco, not in spite of him. He is coming off an AFC Championship game where he outplayed Tom Brady and threw Lee Evans an absolutely perfect ball that would have sent the team to the Super Bowl if Evans had hung on (Just thinking about that play is like mental nails on a chalkboard).
You simply cannot give up on a guy who has won over 50 games in four years and at least one playoff game each season. He is young and to give up on him for some on the backside of their career with a very limited shelf life would be a waste. The last four years would be a wash and the whole process of grooming a quarterback would have to start over again when Peyton retires. This is a move that wouldn’t make sense financially and would eventually set the Ravens back even if he was able to make the difference for a couple of years.
Let’s look at some other realistic options for Peyton.
Where he won’t end up:
- Washington Redskins- This seems to be the popular pick as of right now, but I think Peyton is too smart to go for this. The Redskins desperately need a quarterback upgrade, but there aren’t exactly glamorous toys for Peyton to play with, and I think it would take about three minutes before he and Mike Shannahan butted heads. Free agents are like beautiful women to Dan Snyder. Snyder clearly doesn’t like the idea of marriage and clearly enjoys short flings where he can flaunt his money. I also doubt Peyton wants to have to play Eli twice a year. Hopefully Peyton is smart enough to stay away from this dumpster fire.
- New York Jets- Unlike the Ravens situation with Joe Flacco, The Jets have won in spite of Mark Sanchez since he has come into the league. Rex Ryan has turned this team into a three-ring circus that lacks any semblance of discipline. This would provide Peyton with a quality defense and some decent offensive weapons, but I just can’t see him wanting to be a part of this situation. The way last season ended for the Jets, they have some sole searching to do and while they should bring in someone to at the very least light a fire under Sanchez (the grandfather, Mark Brunell doesn’t count), brining in Peyton officially would end Sanchez. Finally, like the Redskins, I don’t think Peyton wants to compete with Eli. New York is Eli’s town and I just don’t see it.
Top places we are likely to see Peyton sign:
- Kansas City- The Chiefs, in my opinion, are the dark horse here. They have a very good defense led by Tamba Hali. Their running game is as solid as Peyton will have had since early Edgerrine James, especially if Jamal Charles can come back strong. Romeo Crennel is as likeable a coach as there is in the NFL and Dwayne Bowe is great when motivated. The only downside I see is weather or not KC’s front office is ready to give up on Matt Cassel and Kyle Orton.
- Seattle- Seattle badly needs a quarterback. Tarvaris Jackson played way over his head last year and he still wasn’t good. This team has a solid young receiving core and just inked Marshawn lynch to an extension. If they can somehow woo Peyton and Reggie Wayne, I don’t think any of us have even scratched the surface of how many skittles Marshawn would eat.
- Arizona- Larry Fitzgerald. Need I say more? He is, in my mind the best receiver in the NFL and who wouldn’t want to throw to him? This team is very close to being fairly decent again, but after wildly overpaying for Kevin Kolb last offseason, I’m not sure they are ready to shell out what Peyton will demand.
- Miami- The Dolphins are my favorite to land Manning at the moment. It just seems like the best fit for him when I look at it. This team obviously needs a quarterback as they have said they won’t resign Chad Henne and Matt Moore is simply a very good backup. You have an at least decent running game, but more importantly, you have Brandon Marshall who has the potential to be one of the best receivers in the league. You have a new offensive minded head coach, and an already solid defense. Finally, and maybe most importantly to him from a competitive level, he will get two shot’s at Tom Brady each year. The Dolphins are a team that with a good quarterback can potentially challenge the Pat’s reign at the top. Does Peyton want that challenge?
Regardless of where he winds up, Today is a Bittersweet day and Peyton will always be remembered for what he did in Indianapolis. I pick Miami over Kansas City in the race for his services, though.