As of writing this, we’re still waiting on Peyton Manning’s decision.
The most sought after free agent in the history of the NFL reportedly had 12 teams inquire about his services and he has discussed his opportunities at length with the Cardinals, Broncos and Dolphins. Titans’ owner Bud Adams has made it very clear that he wants Manning to return to Tennessee, where he played his college ball, and he is expected to meet with Manning soon.
If I were Peyton Manning, these would be my top three choices of the teams that are reportedly interested.
#3 – Arizona Cardinals: The Cardinals offer arguably the best receiver receiver in the NFL with Larry Fitzgerald, the hospitality of a dome and a team that was on the rise to the end of the 2011 season.
However, they also allowed 54 sacks last year, second worst in the NFL. Not something you’re looking for as a 36 year-old coming off four neck surgeries. Granted, playing with inexperienced quarterbacks like John Skelton and Kevin Kolb leads to more sacks.
I think there’s a pretty decent chance Manning ends up here, but I wouldn’t if I was him.
#2 – Seattle Seahawks: Much like the Cardinals, the Seahawks finished hot last year on the strength of their up-and-coming defense and improved offense.
With Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington and Justin Forsett combining for what would be the most skilled backfield Manning has played with and young depth at the receiver position, they do offer weapons on the offensive side as well. Notorious for having some of the best fans in the NFL and no quarterback of importance standing in his way, Seattle would be a solid fit for Peyton.
The Seahawks reportedly are out of the Manning sweepstakes, however, as they were unable to get him to visit their facility.
#1 – Denver Broncos: Assuming there is a good chance that Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark follow Manning if the team he signs with is interested, I think Denver would be the best fit for Manning.
The defense is young and good and the offense lacks weapons but presumably would be interested in Wayne and Clark because of that. They also play in the AFC West, the weakest division in the considerably weaker conference.
For my money they’re the instant favorite out of the AFC if they can sign the three former Colts.
Excluded – San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers would have been my #1 team with the recent signing of Randy Moss, an elite defense, and an elite tight end already in place. However, they have said openly that they aren’t interested in Manning and are comfortable with Alex Smith.
Excluded – Miami Dolphins: The Dolphins would have been #2 after the Broncos if they hadn’t traded Brandon Marshall to Chicago for two third round picks.
Some analysts believe they made this move in some sort of an attempt to get Manning, I don’t think trading away one of the most physically gifted receivers in the league is any way to entice an elite quarterback.
They are now left with a receiving core featuring Davone Bess and Greg Camarillo. Miami is still a pretty decent bet, but if I were Peyton, I’d stay away.