The Peyton Manning-to-Arizona rumor mill has been churning almost ad nauseum the past few weeks with seemingly endless speculation, blind faith and unabashed hope.
And while the topic of Manning’s future — and talk of him possibly ending up in the Valley — may seem tired, the news of his medical clearance to play football next season is only going to spark a new wave of chatter.
Sources confirmed to ESPN Friday Manning had been cleared by physicians to resume his football career. That’s fantastic news for the four-time MVP — and the NFL teams that covet his services.
After missing the entire 2011 season, Manning is still rehabilitating from the neck fusion surgery that also threatened to end his legendary NFL career. With the Colts reportedly likely to select Stanford QB Andrew Luck with the first pick in the upcoming NFL draft, Manning’s days in Indy may be numbered.
Whether or not Manning is released by the Colts remains to be seen, but if that does happen he can expect to hear from friend — and Cardinals’ tight end — Todd Heap with some unsolicited advice on his future.
“When it comes down to it, if and when it does happen (Manning’s release) I will definitely give him a call,” Heap told Arizona Sports’ Burns and Gambo Thursday.
Heap would surely encourage Manning to sign with the Cardinals — whom he feels would offer him a desirable situation from the start.
“If you look at what we have — we’ve got playmakers on offense and you look at what our defense did and he (Manning) knows he’s going to be coming in with a good defense right away,” Heap said. “And so you look at how we played the second half of the season — he’s got to be impressed with coming into a situation like that and knowing that he can do well and really make a statement on offense.”
Heap, a two-time Pro Bowl tight end — who signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in 2011– could see why someone of Manning’s caliber would be attracted to Arizona.
“No question, I mean I felt the same way when I came in and I think this organization and this team is going nowhere but up with the young guys that we have,” Heap explained.
Despite earlier talk of Manning needing an adjustment period if he joined a new team, whether it’s the Cardinals or not, Heap contends that the Cardinals’ system would instead grow alongside their new quarterback.
“In the NFL, in any offense, in any system — you’ve got to develop it around your players and what they do well,” Heap stated. “Peyton Manning , he’s been doing this long enough, could come in and have an opinion on what he knows works and really mold the system, mold the offense around what he does well.”
Heap doesn’t mean any disrespect to the current quarterbacks on the Cardinals’ roster but recognizes that the opportunity to land Manning — if it presents itself — is too special to pass up.
“He’s one of, if not the best quarterback of all-time,” Heap said. “So if you get an opportunity to get a Peyton Manning, to play with a Peyton Manning — it’s going to be nothing but great for your team, for your franchise.
No doubt, a Cardinals and Manning union sounds like the perfect marriage. But if he does indeed become a free agent, what about the competition on the open market?
“I mean honestly, I think he’d be the most serious about here (Arizona) or maybe a team like Miami,” Heap said.
While Heap hasn’t spoken to Manning in the past month, he hopes to have the opportunity to make that phone call soon. And that Manning is receptive to it — and the Arizona Cardinals.