Sizing up Peyton Manning’s potential landing spots

Jan 24, 2012, 8:03 PM | Updated: 8:51 pm

Welcome to a second straight Arizona Cardinals’ offseason
that will be dominated by quarterback talk.

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
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

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

Estimated chances of actually happening (Marotta
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
, 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

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
. 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
34% – or about the same probability as Dwight
Howard making two straight free throws.

Possible landing spot: Washington

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

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

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
9% – or the same probability as Jersey Shore
ever becoming a show I watch more than once.

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Sizing up Peyton Manning’s potential landing spots