The Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans appear to be the final four teams set to do battle for Peyton Manning’s services. After he gets a chance to meet with representatives from all four squads, the guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famer will then presumably let the world knows where he’s going to be playing come the start of next season.
As we predicted this past weekend, the notion that Denver was some sort of guaranteed landing spot for Manning proved to be false. Late Sunday and going into early Monday, reports leaked that Manning supposedly wouldn’t even bother meeting with Miami and Tennessee because he was so head-over-heels in love with Denver. Needless to say, that theory eventually got debunked by Chris Mortensen who tweeted:
Peyton Manning will meet w Dolphins coach Joe Philbin & Titans coach Mike Munchak during next 3 days, scheduled away from team facilities.
This, of course, comes on the heels of Manning’s weekend meetings with the Broncos and Cardinals.
From the very beginning, the idea that there was something so alluring about Denver that Manning would automatically jump at the opportunity to play there was a bit (read: really) far-fetched. There is nothing wrong with the team, per se, but the lack of proven wide receivers (Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker are good, not great) and the weather issue would seem to be solid enough reasons for the Broncos to at least be on even footing with everyone else, if not slightly behind.
The Cardinals, out of the proposed foursome, seem to make the most sense. Manning would automatically get to work with one of the best wide receivers in the league, Ken Whisenhunt is fantastic at getting older quarterbacks comfortable and, most importantly, the weather in Arizona is always good. Really, weather not playing more of a role in the decision-making (or at least, nobody saying that it’s playing a major role) is sort of shocking. Coming out of that Indianapolis dome and off multiple neck procedures, you would think that finding a suitable stadium would be a huge factor. Apparently not, though.
In theory it's the Dolphins who should be Manning’s most logical option, given all the things we noted as being solid about Arizona, and then adding in the fact that he already has a residence there. However, the Dolphins lack any sort of legitimate No. 1 wide receiver a la Arizona (even if Reggie Wayne comes, he’s no Larry Fitzgerald) and an unproven new head coach. And while he’d never admit it, the prospect of having to fight Tom Brady’s New England Patriots and Rex Ryan’s New York Jets for a playoff berth probably isn’t especially appealing to Manning at this point in his career. Don’t forget, this is a guy who regularly trounced the Jacksonville Jaguars (mostly when they sucked), Houston Texans (when they sucked) and Titans (mostly when they sucked) en route to the postseason; the AFC East is a whole different animal. Things could work out here, but they’re not as promising as they are with the Cardinals.
The Titans have sprung up as an intriguing option for Manning over the last few days. On the surface, there is nothing about the Tennessee situations that seems to put it above the three aforementioned options. However, don’t discount the love that Manning has for playing in Tennessee. It may not mean anything, or it could mean everything as he’s processing things for this decision. Plus, Bud Adams has arguably been more vocal than any other owner about how much he’d love to bring Manning in. Still, sappy thoughts and everything mixed into the equation, it’s hard to see the Titans as anything but longshots in these sweepstakes.
Manning is expected to make his decision sometime this week.