According to a number of reports, the Broncos and Cardinals are in the lead for Peyton Manning's services. Which one should he choose? The Cardinals, and here are a few reasons why.
The Peyton Manning free agency tour appears to be winding down. Multiple reports say Manning won't be making any more free agent visits, which leaves the official visit count at two -- Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals. Manning made both trips over the weekend and, depending on who you listen to, one of those two teams is Manning's most likely destination. The Miami Dolphins are another team reportedly still involved in the talks, but by many accounts the Broncos and Cardinals are the top two teams in the race.
So which one should Manning pick? If I'm No. 18, I'm picking the Cardinals. For a number of reasons, Arizona makes more sense than Denver ...
The Larry Fitzgerald Factor
This is a tough argument to make considering Denver made the playoffs last season and Arizona didn't, but when it comes to offensive talent, the Cardinals have the edge over the Broncos.
That's mainly due to Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best receivers of our generation. Fitzgerald had three of his best NFL seasons under Kurt Warner, another aging quarterback who came to Arizona. Manning had Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison in Indianapolis so he's played with great receivers before but Fitzgerald would take that to another level. Manning and Fitzgerald could be reminiscent of Tom Brady breaking records with Randy Moss. Manning has to be salivating at the chance to play with a guy like Larry Fitzgerald.
The Location Factor
Would Manning be OK with playing in the Denver snow? His reported interest in Denver suggests he ultimately would be. But is it the best fit? Probably not.
The Cardinals have nicer weather in Arizona and the stadium itself has a retractable roof. Arizona's stadium is the one that will most resemble the dome in Indianapolis. Manning is a routine-oriented guy so keeping something as simple as the weather the same may be important to him.
Weather and location may not end up being major factors in Manning's decision, but they should be.
The Division Factor
The AFC West and NFC West are both pretty bad. You can look at the 2011 standings and see that. That said, I think the NFC West gives Manning an easier path to the playoffs. This is a tough argument to make considering the 49ers were in the NFC Championship game last season, but I think you need to look at the quarterbacks to determine which division will be better down the line.
The AFC West has Carson Palmer coming back for his second season with the Raiders, and he'll presumably get better with a year in the system under his belt. Philip Rivers is still one of the top quarterbacks in the league with the Chargers, and then the Chiefs nearly made the playoffs last season when Matt Cassel was out for half the year.
In the NFC West, you're counting on Alex Smith to play like he did last year and not like he did the five years before that. And then you have the Seahawks, who will roll with Tarvaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst, depending on how free agency and the draft pans out. Sam Bradford in St. Louis should be better but he took a step back last year, which is concerning.
The AFC West will end up being the better division over the next three years, which means Manning's easiest path to the playoffs would be in Arizona through the NFC West.
The Media Hype Factor
Shortly after Manning arrived in Miami following the press conference announcing his split from the Colts, the South Florida media lined up and helicopters circled the airport following him back to his home.
Reportedly, Manning didn't like all the attention. He spent his entire career in Indianapolis which is hardly ESPN's second home like it was in Denver last season with Tim Tebow.
Manning may not want to deal with all the extra attention that would come from him replacing Tim Tebow. By all accounts, he's a very private person. To avoid the media craziness, Arizona might be the better fit, at least initially, until the Tebow situation is resolved.
The Offense Factor
Last year with Tim Tebow, the Broncos had to drastically change their offense to suit what he did best. And, you know what? It worked. The Broncos made a run to the divisional round of the playoffs in what was by many accounts a successful season.
If Manning comes to town, the Broncos will once again have to change their offense to suit what Manning does best. The Broncos ran the ball more than anyone else last year and threw it less than anyone else. Bringing Manning in would be a big change to the way they did business.
In Arizona, the Cardinals' 24th-ranked offense featured more of a focus on the passing game. The Cardinals wouldn't have to go through as many changes offensively as the Broncos would. Manning may prefer an offense that hasn't gone from pro-style to triple option and back to pro style.
The less changes an offense would have to make to suit Manning, the better.