The Peyton Manning Sweepstakes

Peyton Manning wearing his Super Bowl XLI championship ring.

The NFL’s free agent period is about to begin in a few hours as teams try to improve their chances of making it to Super Bowl XLVII. The largest prize to be landed this offseason by far is Peyton Manning. As he goes so does the rest of free agency. His signing will influence a series of events from free agents to a team, free agents within the division, and will alter draft strategies. You don’t think the destinations of WRs Reggie Wayne, Mike Wallace, Mario Manningham, or even a Randy Moss wouldn’t be altered with a Manning signing??  In fact with Drew Brees being franchised, the Saints could possibly lose WRs Marques Colston and Robert Meacham.

As we speak, Manning is less than a week away from making a decision by his own admission.  Although he had lengthy visits with the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos, we believe his odyssey will end with a signing in Miami with the Dolphins. He already has a house there and it was the first place he went after his press conference announcing his release. He’s been throwing and working out with his former Colt teammate Reggie Wayne there. Why do we believe he will wind up a Miami Dolphin?? Several reasons

  • He already has a home there and with no state income tax teams would have to offer more to match an offer from Miami.
  • The Dolphins have an up and coming defense led by Cameron Wake and have WR Brandon Marshall (2011 Pro Bowl MVP) to team up with possibly Reggie Wayne. Wayne also went to school in Miami and being a confidant of Peyton’s it seems a logical fit.
  • He enjoys his position as one of the faces of the game. The rivalry between he and Tom Brady would be elevated to new heights with them in the same division. The competitor in him will pull him in this direction.
  • The Dolphins, of all teams that missed the 2011 playoffs, are only a stable quarterback and one more high quality skill position player away from making a playoff run.

One glaring issue that lingers is the fact that the Cardinals and Dolphins ranked 30th, and 31st in sacks allowed with 52 and 54 sacks respectively. It’s up to each team to show a diligence in signing top shelf WRs to minimize how many hits he’ll have to take. He’ll need weapons and his ability to read defenses and audible to safe plays, he will be able to hold off defenses trying to blitz him. http://www.nfl.com/stats/categorystats?seasonType=REG&offensiveStatisticCategory=OFFENSIVE_LINE&d-447263-n=1&d-447263-o=2&d-447263-p=1&d-447263-s=PASSING_SACKS_ALLOWED&tabSeq=2&season=2011&role=TM&Submit=Go&archive=false&conference=null&defensiveStatisticCategory=null&qualified=true

The same claim could be made for the Cardinals with Manning and Wayne teaming up with Larry Fitzgerald. This is the team with the legitimate threat to knock off the Dolphins and sign him. Each team plays in a warm clime, and the dome out in Arizona, as he had in Indy, could be appealing to him. Make no mistake about it, Wayne will have some sway in this.

For Manning’s entire career, he was able to play for the same organization with the same coaching staff with players suited to his abilities. Going to a new environment in 14 years will be an easier transition with a confidante making it with him.As we go to press with this, it’s reported that Peyton will visit the Tennessee Titans. Yet when you think about it: This wasn’t the messy divorce like Brett Favre leaving Green Bay. We don’t think after that respectful departure he would come back and sign with a division rival. Not when he has all these choices. Manning always takes the high road. The only upside to signing with the Titans would be the chance to get back at the Colts two times a season. After watching Favre’s legacy tarnished to a degree, we figure he’ll pass on that in the end. Especially with a team in offensive disarray. Titans?? Not a fit.

So tonight it begins. Midnight calls and conference calls with players crossing the United States to sell their football wares. Yet if you’re a Miami Dolphin fan, remember Manning said “no thank you” to the train wreck that is the New York Jets, so no love lost there. Imagine the Patriots coming to Miami for an important divisional game and the Dolphins have Manning, Brandon Marshall, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Davone Bess in the slot, and Reggie Bush to throw to. So it’s 3rd and 6 at an important juncture of the game: Who do you key on or double??

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