Barring any major surprises, there are only a handful of teams at the top of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Miami is involved, as is Arizona. The Chiefs and Broncos are both said to have contacted Manning's agent, Tom Condon, and the Redskins and Seahawks have also been connected to Manning. The Jets are another team that's been thrown in there. In all, 12 teams reportedly touched base with Manning's camp within the first 24 hours of his free agency.
Despite some of the hysteria, there are concerns with Manning. He'll be 36 years old when the season starts, he'll be among the highest-paid players in the game and of course there's his surgically repaired neck.
But can your team really pass up the chance to land one of the most high-profile free agents in NFL history?
To answer that question, we talked with SB Nation bloggers from the teams that are involved in the Manning sweepstakes. What does each fan base think about adding Manning? Is it the right move? Why should Manning pick your team?
Check below for the answers to those questions from SB Nation's NFL bloggers.
1983. That's the last year the Miami Dolphins found someone who could solidify the quarterback position for multiple years. And, I'm not talking 10 years. This is the last time the Dolphins had a quarterback who started the majority of the games for more than four years in a row.
1999. That's the last year the Miami Dolphins had that "franchise quarterback." Since Dan Marino retired after that 1999 season, the Miami Dolphins have started 16 different quarterbacks. Since Marino, only two quarterbacks, Jay Fiedler in 2001 and Chad Pennington in 2008, have started all 16 games in a season.
The Miami Dolphins are an incredibly talented team. They were the team, at the end of last year, that no team wanted to play. Reggie Bush was incredible. Brandon Marshall landed in the Pro Bowl. The offensive line could be dominant, if the team fixes the right side. The defense started slowly last season, but found its stride and began to dominate.
Now, the team needs a quarterback, and it will win. This team is poised to win now. Peyton Manning needs to win now. How much better could it be? Manning owns a home in Miami. He knows the area. He's comfortable there. The Dolphins absolutely make sense for Manning, and, I'm 100 percent for him coming there. The fan base does have some detractors, who would rather the team pay the price to move up and get Robert Griffin III, but the majority seems to be pushing their chips all-in to get Manning.
The Cardinals make a lot of sense. Manning has played over half of his games in a dome. Arizona has that. He has played with an elite receiver and Arizona has Larry Fitzgerald. The offense that the Cardinals run is very fluid in the fact that it is based on pre-snap reads. Manning does that better than anyone.
The Cardinals already have had great success with a quarterback that reads defenses extremely well and gets the ball out quickly. Their coaching staff is well respected and is flexible to include Manning in game planning. Kurt Warner was heavily involved when he was here. The Cardinals defense is very, very good if they keep their level of play from the second half of the 2011 season. The team also has other offensive pieces. Beanie Wells had a solid year and Ryan Williams is coming back (and he's also a good receiver out of the backfield). At tight end, they have Todd Heap and Rob Housler.
Aside from all of that, he has a good relationship already with Ken Whisenhunt. And another biggie -- Arizona is a GREAT place to live during the football season. You really can't beat it.
Like a lot of other teams, the Chiefs are the perfect match for Manning. Solid running game with Jamaal Charles, good weapons in the passing game with Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston and then a defense that's young and on the verge of breaking out. KC has a lot of things going for them -- except a quarterback. Matt Cassel hasn't shown he's the obvious answer at quarterback so the Chiefs absolutely should be players in the Manning sweepstakes.
However, acquiring Manning would go against most of what we know about GM Scott Pioli. He says one player doesn't make that big of a difference -- it's a team game. And he also is the one that brought in Cassel, so he wants him to succeed. There's also some skepticism as to how much the Chiefs would be willing to pay.
I think the Chiefs end up making a serious push for Manning because, despite what Pioli has done in the past, a Peyton Manning doesn't come around every day. KC needs to make a bold move at quarterback with the rest of the roster in win-now mode.
The fans are pumped about this and already imagining what could happen with a player like Manning. Eighteen years ago, the Chiefs made a trade for a veteran quarterback who many considered the greatest of all-time. Like Joe Montana back then, Manning can instantly make the Chiefs serious contenders in the AFC.
And did I mention Kansas City has some terrific barbecue? Manning can't pass up KC.
Obviously, the Broncos have a unique situation with Tebow-mania fresh in everyone's mind in Broncos country. Still, the prospects of bringing a quarterback with the stature of Peyton Manning to Denver has a majority of Broncos fans excited. In a poll ran on MHR that simply asked if the Broncos should pursue Manning, 61 percent of the 2300+ responses felt it was a good idea. While Broncos fans are excited about the prospects of Tebow, Manning is still Manning and would bring instant legitimacy to the passing game, and could only further aid a running game that finished 2011 tops in the NFL.
John Elway's task is to try and put the best football team on the field. One that could compete for an AFC West title -- and Super Bowl title -- each and every year. A Denver Broncos team with Peyton Manning in 2012 is better than a team without him. With $50 million in cap-space, it's a no-brainer for the Broncos to ‘kick the tires' on Manning and see if the future Hall of Famer is interested in heading West.
The Redskins fan base seems to be split here.
Half want a franchise QB at any cost and feel the Redskins should trade whatever it takes to get Robert Griffin III. The other half, myself included, sees the value in using part of a large amount of cap space ($47 million) to bring in Manning and use those draft picks and free agency money to surround him with talent. Included in that plan is using one of the Redskins draft picks to acquire a rookie QB like Ryan Tannehill to groom under Manning.
As much as fans hate it, the Redskins will not mortgage their top two picks this year and next to trade up for RG3. Teams must leave themselves in the position to upgrade major needs and shipping out multiple firsts and multiple seconds is too much given the current state of the roster.
If St. Louis weakens their trade demands, then the Redskins will take RG3 over Manning.
The Peyton Manning question is a hot topic right now for Seahawks fans and there are, as usual, pretty strong opinions on both sides of the argument. The people that are against a possible Manning signing in Seattle question the future Hall of Famer's health, first and foremost; he's not 'the Peyton Manning of old' and he could get injured.
Also, importantly, because of his age, if he's only around for two or three years, does that disrupt the rebuilding process that the Seahawks are going through? Many feel the team is on the right track, has a good amount of cap space, is young, trending up and poised to continue that trajectory. With a few key free agent signings, young players, mind you, the Seahawks could situate themselves for contention going forward for the next several years. Manning would come in, change the offense, change the identity and change the situation from steady, continued rebuild to potential short term contender.
It's the classic "win now" or "win for a long period of time" question.
On the other hand, and the side I fall under, there are people who believe Peyton Manning makes the Seahawks an instant Super Bowl contender. No player can guarantee any team a Super Bowl, but with the Seahawks' top-10 defense, adding an elite talent on the other side of the ball at quarterback, like Manning, could potentially put the Hawks over the top. Obviously, this is assuming that Manning is healthy enough to play, but if he were, he'd be throwing passes to Sidney Rice, Doug Baldwin, two dynamic playmakers and probably Mike Williams, who has proven an ability to be a possession receiver with a quarterback that knows how and is willing to throw into tight windows (65 catches in 2010 with Matt Hasselbeck).
In addition, the Seahawks have depth at receiver -- Golden Tate, Kris Durham and Ricardo Lockette, not to mention veteran Ben Obomanu, who could potentially break out with a quality QB in the case that any of the starters get hurt. I haven't even brought up the idea that Reggie Wayne is a package deal with Manning, either.
Throw TE Zach Miller into the mix, plus quality backups in Cameron Morrah and Anthony McCoy, and the Seahawks weaponry on offense could be interesting with Peyton throwing passes. (Not forgetting that if Manning is around, FA John Carlson could be persuaded to stay as well).
Complementing this would be the Seahawks run game, which was one of the best in the NFL last season in the second half of the year. With continued improvement there, and with weapons like Marshawn Lynch and Leon Washington, the Seahawks offense has potential to be very, very good. That is, they have the weapons to be very, very good. They just don't have the quarterback that can get them over the top. Tarvaris Jackson was serviceable last year and played through a lot of injury, but no one in Seattle believes he's the long-term answer.
Jets fans seem to be split right down the middle about the idea of going after Manning. Those against it remember the Jets have been down this road before. Getting another aging legend, Brett Favre, didn't work out so well last time. They also feel it is too soon to give up on Mark Sanchez, who has won four playoff games and twice gotten the team to within a game of the Super Bowl. With limited salary cap space, landing Manning would likely prevent the Jets from addressing any other need.
Those in favor of landing Manning were very discouraged by Sanchez's 2011 season. Yes, he has had some great moments in big spots, but he also had a top three rushing attack and a defense in those years the team had success. They tend to believe almost any starting quarterback in the league could have won as many games and an awful lot could have won more. The talk of training camp in 2011 was how the Jets were less talented in other spots and lost some key leaders and how Sanchez was supposed to pick things up by developing on the field and in the locker room. Instead, the Jets missed the playoffs and had perhaps the most dysfunctional locker room in the league. Further, Sanchez did not noticeably improve in almost any key area and continued to make horrible rookie mistakes even as a third year starter.
I personally think the people who want Manning have a much more compelling case. It is entirely possible Sanchez will get better, but any prediction of that happening is based on hope, not on anything objective we saw last year. Published reports indicate a number of players in the locker room doubt his ability, his attitude, and his work ethic. That is a really bad sign. Just think of an offense led by Peyton Manning and a defense led by Rex Ryan. That is a beautiful thought for Jets fans.