As soon as the news came out that Peyton Manning was being jettisoned from Indianapolis, everyone from fans to NFL analysts started making their list of landing spots. Everyone seems to be an expert on the subject, but only a select group actually make stronger cases than others.
Around 2 pm ET on Wednesday, Marshall Faulk made some very formidable points on the NFL Network. The Manning family, according to Faulk, would likely be against a Peyton move to the NFC, as they do not want Peyton competing with Eli Manning in any postseason scenario that would block the other’s path to the Super Bowl. According to Faulk, who played with Manning in Indianapolis, Eli sought a move to the NFC when he was drafted, because the Manning family did not want the brothers in the same conference even in 2004. The Mannings are a tight-knit football family, and much of what Faulk imparted carried an air of authority to it.
Faulk’s viewpoints seem to indicate that strong potential suitors such as the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins are already not serious contenders for Manning’s services, and may be used as nothing more than bargaining chips to leverage other offers. Faulk’s statements certainly do not carry any finality, but are from a very credible source and appear to indicate the strongest contenders to land Manning come from the NFC. The Mannings would conceivably love to see Peyton and Eli play for a championship in the same game, but want to do their best to not potentially deny either of Archie’s sons the right to actually get to the Super Bowl.
Such angles drastically trim the field of potential suitors down. And make the Miami Dolphins the odds-on favorite to land Manning. The Fins are desperate to become relevant in the NFL and South Florida again. They are clearly in the shadow of LeBron and now Jose Reyes and company in a town they once owned. Well, they are at least behind LeBron. We’ll have to wait and see if the Marlins actually draw any real crowds to their new ballpark. If the Dolphins are contenders again, though, they can easily reclaim their top billing in South Florida.
Ever since Dan Marino retired, the Dolphins have been a laughingstock at their position and the biggest annual failure among the league’s “historic” franchises. They whiffed on an opportunity to get Drew Brees and went with Daunte Culpepper instead in 2006. They passed on Brady Quinn a year later, which turned out to be a good move in retrospect, but the franchise was roasted by their fans at the time. The team that gave you Cleo Lemon and Gus Frerotte cannot continue to frustrate their fanbase anymore. South Florida sports fans are notoriously fickle and fair-weather, and the team needs a major impact move to rally the communities around it again.
Dolphins ownership will push hard for what it takes to make the team a winner again. If they can find a way to package Manning with Reggie Wayne they can make the best push. Wayne played at Miami with the Hurricanes and would be highly motivated to return home and re-up with his favorite passer. With a duo of Wayne and Brandon Marshall, Reggie Bush as a top receiving RB and a sound defense, and the opportunity to beat Tom Brady directly in his division, Miami makes a lot of sense in a lot of ways as a prime landing spot for Manning.
A team that can seemingly wrest Manning away from the Dolphins is their arch-rival, the New York Jets. The two franchises have long been linked in an emotional and storied rivalry. Ultimately, it may come down to either team tying up their most prominent franchise QB since Marino or Joe Namath. Let’s not count Brett Favre here in the picture, as that was a forgettable piece of history.
The New York Jets have made it to two AFC Championship Games in recent years, and have appeared to be closer to a championship than Miami can be. Plus, the Manning family can wrap up full NFL ownership of the biggest media market. The Jets offer less appealing offensive talent at wide receiver and running back than Miami at this point, though, and it is uncertain whether Manning would be completely willing to swim in the New York area fishbowl.
Other teams in the speculative mix mentioned are the Denver Broncos, as Manning does offer a much more proven and stable alternative to Tim Tebow, and the Kansas City Chiefs, which certainly cannot be sold on Matt Cassel by any stretch. The Texans have also been mentioned, as they appear to have a Super Bowl-ready squad, yet they may still have a pretty firm commitment to Matt Schaub. The Seahawks have the available money and a fine supporting cast in place, as do the Cardinals. If Faulk’s analysis turns out to be overruled, Seahawks owner Paul Allen can indeed bring in a package of Manning and Wayne, and the team does have the look of a potentially strong playoff contender if the QB position is stabilized. The Cardinals have the lure of Larry Fitzgerald, and that is significant in itself.
Prediction? Manning lands in Miami. With the right pieces in place, including Manning and Wayne and maybe some bolstering on the offensive line, the Dolphins can vault themselves back into prominence. That is where they want to be so badly. Expect the Fins to make it happen, and beat out the hated Jets for his services in the process.
Of course, we haven’t even completely leaped into whether Manning will be fully healthy or not. But that is another matter of speculation to tackle for possible suitors as well, and the information that has come out on his condition to this point has been anything but definitive. As the free agent process plays itself out and the interested ballclubs do their due diligence, we should find out even more of what to expect from Manning going forward. Doctors have reportedly cleared him to move ahead, though, so we cannot assume more of the negatives just yet. As of now, there is a very attractive superstar QB available, and he may ultimately appears destined for South Florida.