In my opinion, there are a slew of factors that will play into Manning’s decision as he mulls the offers.
One factor that probably won’t play a big role is his health, believe it or not.
Yes, Manning himself admitted at Wednesday’s exit presser in Indy that he’s “still got some work to do, and some progress to make” as he recovers from all those surgeries to repair the bulging disc in his neck that sidelined him all last season. But he’ll likely sign with a club long before he, or anyone knows, the full extent of his recovery.
Oh, and don’t believe for a second that teams can get away with offering him a contract with little up-front money, whose carrots are mostly tied to performance-quota options.
“Pure incentive-laden deals are for players that have little leverage and interest,” Andrew Brandt, ESPN’s NFL business analyst told me Wednesday. “There will be enough suitors to leverage a strong guarantee for the deal.
“Above that guarantee, there will likely be incentives layered in on top of that, which will be easy to structure since he didn’t play last year.”
These are Manning’s biggest considerations, in my opinion.
Is the city east of the Mississippi, where Manning has lived his whole life? Are the city’s weather and stadium conducive to a passing offence?
Will the head coach let him have the big say he’ll want in the offence? What kind of offence do they run? And is there enough surrounding talent on offence?
Also, does the team have a decent defence, so that it can be a Super Bowl contender right away? Manning is almost 36 and doesn’t have time to wait.
As well, how badly does the team’s owner and management want him? How committed to winning have they traditionally been? And does the team have salary-cap room to outbid others?
Lastly, does the team play in the NFC? Because if it does, as one report asserted on Wednesday, Manning will be less interested in that team, because his family wants the chance for a (Peyton) Manning versus (Eli) Manning Super Bowl matchup some year soon. Eli, of course, plays in the NFC for the New York Giants.
All these factors, and probably others — weighted in a manner that only Peyton, his family and his agent Tom Condon probably know — will decide his destination.
All anybody else can do is make educated guesses as to the weighting.
Hah! My turn.
The eight likeliest destinations for Manning appear to be the Arizona Cardinals, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins.
I rated each of 10 factors for each of those eight teams, from minus-2 (the most negative) to plus-2 (the most positive). See the accompanying grid.
The winner? No real surprise: The Miami Dolphins. By my factoring, the Dolphins totaled +12 — far and away the leader and, thus, in my opinion, the likeliest destination for Manning.
Next likeliest? Kansas City, at +6. Then Arizona, at +4. Then Seattle, Washington and Denver (tied at +3), followed by the Jets (+1) and Niners (0).
Manning already has a home in Miami Beach. Maybe he can even walk to work.
CAP CAN BE WORKED AROUND
Teams hoping to sign free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning have to have the salary-cap room do so.
Or do they?
It is an important factor, yes, but is “subject to manipulation,” Andrew Brandt, ESPN’s NFL business analyst, said Wednesday.
“By that I mean that if any team truly wants to sign Peyton Manning, they can make it work, cap-wise, through restructures and perhaps even releases,” he said. “I do think it’s less likely that a team that has made a commitment to a quarterback in recent years would simply throw that away. That would be Arizona (with Kevin Kolb), New York Jets (with Mark Sanchez) and K.C. (with Matt Cassel).
“My sense is Miami, Washington and Seattle may be most well-positioned.”