Manning down to Final Four?

It appears that Peyton Manning has whittled his list of free-agent landing spots to four teams --...

It appears that Peyton Manning has whittled his list of free-agent landing spots to four teams -- the Broncos, the Cardinals, the Dolphins and the Titans. (MIKE BLAKE/Reuters file photo)

JOHN KRYK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

Denver and Arizona had their shots with Peyton Manning. Now Miami and Tennessee are getting theirs.

Are those teams the Final Four?

It appears that way for now, but as many as 12 teams initially approached the Manning camp last week upon his release from the Colts, ESPN is reporting.

Perhaps the San Francisco 49ers will charge in if they can't lock down starting quarterback Alex Smith before the free agency signing period begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT.

Multiple reports Monday said that His Royal Highness has agreed to talk football, and only football, with coaches of both the Dolphins and Titans, and that he will not tour their facilities as he did in Denver and Phoenix on the weekend.

Manning's meeting with new Miami head coach Joe Philbin and some of his assistants was to take place Monday night or Tuesday at an undisclosed location, ESPN reported.

There was just as much secrecy surrounding Manning's planned get-together with Titans head coach Mike Munchak and some of his staff, expected to occur Tuesday or Wednesday latest. One report said the meeting would be in Houston rather than in the Titans' home of Nashville.

Both the Manning camp and employees of these two clubs clearly are under instructions to keep a tight lid on details. Little is leaking out. Perhaps Manning wishes to squelch as much of the media circus as possible — or at least those circuses he doesn't want, or cannot control.

Or maybe it's just that Manning doesn't want either of the owners — Dolphins' Stephen Ross or Titans' Bud Adams — to find out where the meetings are.

Ross is supremely successful in business, but is oh-fer as an NFL owner. Adams is 89 and seen as a bit of a loose cannon.

The entire southern half of the state of Florida apparently is aware Ross desperately wants to sign Manning after two very public, high-profile head coach rejections by Jim Harbaugh (last year) and Jeff Fisher (this year).

Miami needs something — anything — besides a marketing-obsessed owner to put thousands more bums in all those empty seats at Sun Life Stadium.

The Titans, meanwhile, didn't even publicly throw their hat into the Manning ring until Sunday, courtesy of Adams.

"He is the man I want. Period," the owner told The Tennessean newspaper in announcing the team's intentions to pursue the four-time NFL MVP. "And the people that work for me understand that ... I will be disappointed if it doesn't happen."

Manning as a Titan makes sense, actually. He is a folk hero in Tennessee as he played his college ball at the University of Tennessee in the mid-1990s, and his wife is a U of T grad who hails from Memphis.

The Titans have a lot of cap space, too, with which to sign Manning as well as other free agents — some $28 million, at least as of last Friday, according to reports.

That isn't even as much as the Broncos, who had a whopping $44.7 million of cap space on Friday. Miami had an $11.8-million cap gap, while Arizona was struggling worse than any other NFL club entering the weekend to get under the cap, being over by $16.4 million. The 2012 salary cap is $120.6 million.

So now what? It sure looks like Manning's original deadline for choosing a new team — by the start of free agency on Tuesday — won't be met. The urgency remains, however.

Oh, and the questions we all have had about whether Manning can still even throw like an NFL QB? One of his former teammates, Brandon Stokley, told the Denver Post on Monday that no one should worry.

"I saw him for three days at Duke (University)," Stokley told the Post. "He threw a ton of balls for three straight practices, and the guy looked to me like he did when I was (in Indianapolis) six years ago."

That oughta raise Manning's contract demand by another $10 million, don'tcha think?


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