Updated Jan 24, 2012 - 1:52 pm
Sizing up Peyton Manning's potential landing spots
Last year, although it was hindered by a long lockout, most of the talk around the Redbirds surrounded signal callers. Would the Cards acquire Kevin Kolb, Carson Palmer or Kyle Orton in a trade? Would it be a free agent like Matt Hasselbeck or Vince Young? Or would Arizona spend their fifth-overall selection in the NFL Draft on a rookie like Blaine Gabbert?
We know what happened...Kolb was acquired by a trade with Philadelphia, got a fat new contract and battled foot injuries and concussion issues for half the season.
That, along with an interesting development elsewhere in the league, has kept the possibility open that the great QB search of 2011 might not have been a long-term solution for Ken Whisenhunt's team.
Perennial Pro Bowler and four-time league MVP Peyton Manning's future in Indianapolis is very cloudy to say the least. Manning, who didn't take a snap in 2011 because he was recovering from a couple of neck surgeries, indicated to Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star that he has no intentions of retiring, no matter what actor Rob Lowe tweets.
The Colts, by virtue of their nightmarish season without Manning which saw them finish 2-14, have the first overall pick in April's draft, and the most pro-ready quarterback in a long time, Stanford's Andrew Luck, is available. Despite Manning's greatness, with the question marks that remain about his health, the huge roster bonus he's due in March and Luck's tremendous upside, the Colts would probably be wise to cut Manning loose.
So what teams would be interested? A better question may be what teams wouldn't be interested?
Adam Schefter of ESPN tweeted on Sunday that the Cardinals, along with the Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and New York Jets are at least, right now, the most likely landing spots for Manning.
Hey, when arguably the greatest quarterback ever to play the game has a chance of changing addresses, it calls for a break down!
Possible Landing Spot: Arizona Cardinals
Background: Cardinals won 7 of their last 9 games to finish the season at 8-8
Current QB Situation: The Cardinals signed Kevin Kolb to a 5-year, $63 million contract after acquiring him in a trade from Philadelphia. Kolb was limited to 9 starts, and the Cards went 3-6 in those games as the former Houston Cougar posted a quarterback rating of 81.1. Kolb is due a $7 million roster bonus on St. Patrick's Day. John Skelton, a former fifth round pick out of Fordham, is also under contract for 2012 and played decently in Kolb's absence, guiding the Cardinals to a 5-2 mark in games that he started. If nothing happens with Manning, there is believed to be a brewing quarterback controversy heading into OTAs.
Why Arizona would be a good fit: Head coach Ken Whisenhunt has had success in his tenure with aging quarterbacks. Kurt Warner, whom the Cardinals took off the New York Giants' scrap heap in 2005, led Arizona to its first-ever Super Bowl appearance following the 2008 season. The Cardinals also have wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, the consummate professional, who could team with Manning to form a nearly unstoppable passing combination. Arizona also plays in a domed stadium, a familiar setting for Manning, who has played his home games indoors since entering the league in 1998.
Why it might not happen: The Cardinals' current quarterback situation might be too pricey. Arizona gave up a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback and a second round draft pick to get Kolb, and there's still no consensus on what they have in him.
Estimated chances of actually happening (Marotta scale): 28% - or the same probability as Will Ferrell ever winning a Best Actor Oscar.
Possible Landing Spot: Miami Dolphins
Background: The Dolphins started 0-7 in 2011, but finished 6-3 over their last nine games to post a 6-10 record. Their coach, Tony Sparano, was fired in December and replaced by interim Todd Bowles. Former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin was hired to take over the job, as he becomes the Dolphins' seventh head coach since 2004.
Current QB Situation: Chad Henne, who began the '11 season as the starter, is a free agent who is hoping to re-sign with the Dolphins. The thought of that alone has Miami fans booing. Matt Moore started 12 games, and posted a 6-6 record. Moore is under contract for 2012. Pat Devlin, an undrafted free agent in 2011 who was on the active roster for two games, is under contract for '12. J.P. Losman, a career journeyman, is a free agent.
Why Miami would be a good fit: Manning won his one and only Super Bowl on the turf at whatever they're calling the Dolphins' stadium these days. The Dolphins also have wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who despite his knuckle-head label, has caught 474 balls over the last five seasons, making him one of the most productive pass catchers in the league.
Why it might not happen: Did I mention Marshall is a knuckle-head? Manning is also a creature of habit, having worked with the same coaches for most of his career, so the alarming turnover at the head coaching position in Miami may be a turn-off to him. And, since Philbin got the job, there's a strong belief that the Dolphins will make a strong push to sign free agent quarterback Matt Flynn, who played under Philbin in Green Bay.
Estimated chances of actually happening (Marotta scale): 21% - or the same probability as Paula Deen becoming a vegan.
Possible Landing Spot: New York Jets
Background: The Jets lost their last three games of 2011 to finish a very disappointing 8-8 and miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
Current quarterback situation: The Jets invested a high draft pick (5th overall) on quarterback Mark Sanchez out of USC in 2009. It's been a frustrating experience since. Sanchez has led the Jets to two playoff appearances and has a 27-20 record as a starter, but his development has stalled in the eyes of many, including some teammates. Veteran backup Mark Brunell, who has served mostly as a mentor and a tissue to Sanchez, is a free agent. Rookie Greg McElroy, who missed the whole season with a thumb injury, is expected to be in the mix for a roster spot in 2012. More on him later.
Why New York would be a good fit: The Jets are the overwhelming favorites to win the Super Bowl every year, just ask their head coach. Seriously, the Jets play in a beautiful new stadium in the biggest media market in the country. Manning's brother Eli plays in that same stadium, and this would create a "Mannings Take Manhattan" scenario. Madison Avenue already loves Manning, who is one of the most popular and successful pitchmen in all of pro sports. Imagine how Peyton in a Jets jersey would help that synergy. And the Jets boast a good offensive line, anchored by Pro Bowlers D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold.
Why it might not happen: The Jets made a lot of national news following their disappointing campaign for what McElroy described as a "corrupt mindset" that permeated the locker room. McElroy also spoke of "extremely selfish individuals" who played for the Jets last season. Chemistry was a huge issue and could act as a deterrent to Manning wanting to play for the Jets. Also, their leading receiver is thought to have an attitude problem. Santonio Holmes got into an argument with offensive lineman Wayne Hunter during the season-ending loss to Miami and was benched for the rest of the game.
Estimated chances of actually happening (Marotta scale): 34% - or about the same probability as Dwight Howard making two straight free throws.
Possible landing spot: Washington Redskins
Background: The 'Skins started out the season 3-1, but won only 2 of their final 10 games to finish 5-11. It was Washington's third straight losing season.
Current quarterback situation: In a word? Messy. The Redskins opted to start the season with Rex Grossman, who is incidentally, the only quarterback in the league whose last name describes his play (Gross, man). Grossman finished with a negative touchdowns-to- interceptions ratio and a rating of 72.4, which ranked 14th in the NFC among starters. John Beck, who was involved in Washington's preseason quarterback battle with Grossman, started three game, going 0-3. Grossman is a free agent while Beck is under contract for next year, although there is strong speculation that the Redskins will look elsewhere for a new signal caller.
Why Washington would be a good fit: If nothing else, owner Daniel Snyder has proven he'll pay big money to aging veteran players, and Manning, unlike most of the stiffs that Snyder has cash-whipped, can still play.
Why it might not work: Of the four teams listed as possible landing spots, the Redskins have the worst group of receivers currently under contract. And maybe Manning would be wary of the Redskins' dubious history with big-name free agents.
Estimated chances of actually happening (Marotta scale): 9% - or the same probability as Jersey Shore ever becoming a show I watch more than once.
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