TORONTO - From Denver, to Arizona, Miami and Kansas City, everybody is wild about Peyton Manning.
There hasn’t been a circus to hit town like this since Barnum and Bailey folded up the big-top.
When Manning returned to his Miami home Thursday after Wednesday’s press conference in Indianapolis, he was buzzed by media helicopters.
There hadn’t been that kind of manhunt since O.J. Simpson went for a car ride. And, it isn’t going to get any calmer with Manning scheduled to visit the Broncos and Cardinals.
Good thing he promises to make a decision by Tuesday before this thing gets totally silly.
The guy hasn’t played in more than a year. He’s coming off three serious neck surgeries. He is 36 — and yet it appears numerous teams are willing to throw millions at him without seeing if he can throw.
Now comes a radio report saying the Kansas City Chiefs have already offered Manning a contract. Considering coach Romeo Crennel toed the tampering line before Manning was released, it could just be accurate.
In any case Manning’s release has started a feeding frenzy.
The Broncos are reported to “desperately” want Manning.
John Elway, the Broncos’ vice-president of football operations, was attending the Oklahoma State Pro Day workouts Friday but Brian Griese, the former Denver quarterback who is now the Broncos’ radio color commentator thinks the Broncos and Manning are compatible, and that there’s a good chance of a deal getting done. “I think it’s very realistic,” Griese said. “More realistic than people would realize.”
Elway, for one, isn’t likely to shy away due to Manning’s age. “John Elway won two Super Bowls when he was 37 and 38 in Denver,” Griese said. “I think Denver is certainly in play.”
Griese said he believes Elway will woo Manning by talking up the talent that’s already on the Broncos’ offence, especially left tackle Ryan Clady. Elway will tell Manning that he’s going to put a Super Bowl-quality roster around him.
Dolphins’ coach Joe Philbin said he hadn’t heard about the helicopter chase and that he hadn’t spoken with Manning. Of course, that doesn’t mean owner Stephen Ross wasn’t popping a bottle of champagne somewhere with the Manning camp.
“The differentiating factor in Denver will be John Elway and his ability to connect with Peyton Manning,” Griese said.
2012 Quarterback Free Agent Class
The franchises most in need of a starting quarterback are the Redskins, Colts, Dolphins, Seahawks, Browns, Chiefs, and Cardinals. There is Peyton Manning, of course. And, while the Saints are having issues signing Drew Brees, it would be a huge surprise if they didn’t eventually find an amicable truce.
There have been hints that they could sign Manning and trade Brees but that seems about as likely as Homer Simpson quitting donuts.
Here then, are the top free agent quarterbacks — one of the better groups to come along in several years:
1. Matt Flynn, Packers
Might look good in the West Coast offences preferred by the Browns or Seahawks. Job in Miami under former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin looks like it’s Mannings to take or leave.
2. Alex Smith, 49ers
Holdup in negotiations appears to be over the length of contract. The 49ers are thinking maybe three years; Smith is looking for a five-year commitment. Jury is still out on his long-term value. Often looks uncomfortable in the pocket. Can manage a game but won’t take one over.
3. Kyle Orton, Chiefs
Orton has always been OK. A stop gap. Somewhere between No. 1 and backup. One report had him going back to the Bears as a backup. Another suggested Jacksonville, where Mike Mularkey is looking for someone to mentor Blaine Gabbert.
4. Chad Henne, Dolphins
Coming off arm surgery and a disappointing career start in Miami. Speculation has him following head coach Tony Sparano to New York as Mark Sanchez backup. Of course, if Rex Ryan gets Manning...
5. Jason Campbell, Raiders
Solid, unspectacular, regarded as a team leader. Chiefs might take a flutter to have him push the under-whelming Cassel. Of course, if the Chiefs get Manning ....
And the rest: Vince Young, David Garrard, Rex Grossman, Shaun Hill, Donovan McNabb, Dennis Dixon, Josh Johnson, Drew Stanton, Byron Leftwich, Charlie Whitehurst, Brady Quinn, Sage Rosenfels, Chris Redman, Caleb Hanie, David Carr, Dan Orlovsky, A.J. Feeley, Derek Anderson, Kellen Clemens, Kyle Boller, Mark Brunell, Chad Pennington, Luke McCown, Josh McCown, Charlie Batch, Jake Delhomme, J.P. Losman, Jeff Garcia.
WHERE GOES FREENEY?
Robert Mathis’ gain may become Dwight Freeney’s loss.
Freeney said this week he hoped to stay in Indianapolis.
But the Colts then signed defensive end Mathis to a huge deal that pays $17 million this year.
It now appears the club may decide the cost of keeping both Mathis and Freeney is simply too high.
Freeney is being shopped on the trade market.
Freeney is 32 and his sack totals have declined from 13.5 in 2009 to 8.5 in 2011 but he is still an accomplished pass rusher. The move may simply be an effort to encourage Freeney to renegotiate his own contract which includes a $19 million cap hit this season.
Freeney has so far balked at the idea.
Meantime the club is evidently testing the trade market to see if there is any interest. At his age, Freeney might be a better fit for a contender than a club such as the Colts, who are in rebuilding mode.
BILLS NEED TO SHOW MARIO WILLIAMS THE MONEY
The Buffalo Bills signed one of their own Friday, and there is speculation whether they’ll put their money where Mario Williams is.
The club announced it has re-signed linebacker Kirk Morrison, who is expected to have an expanded role in the club’s new 4-3 defence, to a two-year contract.
He was a backup in Buffalo last year but started 95 of 96 games with the Jaguars and Oakland.
Meantime, the Bills remain a club that needs to improve its pass rush, finishing with a puny 29 sacks last season.
Williams is the gold standard in that department. The Bills have indicated a willingness to spend. In his past five seasons, Williams has a whopping 48.5 sacks in 66 games, and he’s the type of player who fits the Bills defensive scheme. He would take pressure off a beleaguered secondary.
Question is, how badly do the Bills want Williams and can they make their money talk loud enough to convince him Buffalo is a viable option?
Signing their own is nice but for the Bills in 2012-13 that alone isn’t going to get the job done.
DOLPHINS WANT THEIR BARBER BACK
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers want Ronde Barber back for a 16th season.
In a classy move, and one that will keep the fans happy, the club says it wants the cornerback to return.
Barber, now 37, is contemplating retirement.
“Ronde, coach (Greg) Schiano and I have had several meetings, he knows we’d like him back for a 16th season,” GM Mark Dominik said in a text to the Tampa Bay Times. “We will respect his wish for a little more time to make his decision and look forward to speaking with him again soon.”
Barber started all 16 games last season, the 12th consecutive season he’s done so, and he has the longest active streak of consecutive starts in the NFL, starting 199 games in a row.
Barber admitted last season he no longer is the same player he was in 1997 when the Bucs drafted him. But he’s popular in the Bay area so it makes him valuable to the team off the field, as much as on it. Besides, he’s reliable which is something fellow cornerback Aqib Talib can’t say. Talib faces a felony charge for assault with a deadly weapon and next season might be playing for Pen State.