Peyton Manning Release Rumor: Ranking His Top 6 Possible Destinations

Sean PelletierContributor IIMarch 6, 2012

Peyton Manning Release Rumor: Ranking His Top 6 Possible Destinations

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    According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, the Indianapolis Colts will part ways with Peyton Manning this week. This news just made (almost) official what mostly everyone thought to be inevitable.

    The Colts are expected to draft Stanford’s Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in this April’s NFL draft. But this article isn’t about who’s coming into Indy—it’s about who’s going out.

    The speculation has already begun regarding where Manning will end up for the 2012 NFL season. 

    Future Hall of Fame quarterbacks don’t hit the market very often. Even if he is coming off multiple neck surgeries and will turn 36 this month, Manning is sure to be a hot commodity.

    As soon as Peyton Manning is released from the Colts, he is allowed to sign with a team. This gives him a jump-start on the market, according to Adam Schefter, and it would be realistic to see him sign before free agency begins, March 13.

    I see six realistic destinations where Manning could land for the 2012 NFL season.

6. San Francisco 49ers

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    The 49ers surprised a lot of people and made it to the NFC championship last season. They boasted the league's best defense and an impressive Alex Smith. If you told anyone before last season that Alex Smith would put up the numbers he did last year, they would have called you crazy.

    Smith signed a one-year contract before last season. After his impressive year, many people expected the 49ers to lock Smith up as soon as they could. According to ProFootballTalk (NBC Sports), though, there is “nothing imminent" with Alex Smith and the 49ers.

    49ers kicker David Akers made a record 44 field goals in 2011. This was in large part due to the ineffective 49ers offense. Usually when a team is unable to score in the red zone, the blame is put on the quarterback. Peyton Manning could be an upgrade in that department.

    In all likelihood Alex Smith will be a 49er next season. Coach Jim Harbaugh has had Smith’s back since he took the job last year. Smith fits the San Francisco’s offense very well and played fantastic football in the playoffs. Eventually a deal between the two will get done.

    But just picture a defense as good as San Francisco’s paired with one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. If Manning is healthy, the 49ers could become favorites to win the Super Bowl. 

5. New York Jets

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    Mark Sanchez is one of the most scrutinized quarterbacks in the league. One game he will look great, then he’ll follow that game with an awful one. Sanchez probably wasn’t ready to start his rookie season, but the Jets' only other legitimate option was Kellen Clemens.

    I don’t think Sanchez is a bad quarterback; I just think he needs some mentoring. That’s where Peyton Manning comes in. Manning is only believed to have a couple years left in the tank.

    At 25, Sanchez can afford to sit behind a star like Peyton Manning for a couple seasons. After learning from one of the best quarterbacks of all time for a couple years, Sanchez may be more prepared.

    With the Jets defense not getting any younger, the window to win now is closing, and Manning could be the solution.

    The large media market of New York may not be the best place for Manning to go to, given his current state. He also may not want to play in the same city as his younger brother, Eli. The most glaring problem with this scenario is Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Ryan is in charge in New York and has a very strong personality (to say the least). Manning likely needs a “yes-man” coach like he has had in the past. Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell are the complete opposite of Rex Ryan.

    It’s not a certain thing that Manning would not work well with Ryan, but it doesn’t seem likely. 

4. Washington Redskins

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    Rex Grossman and John Beck were the starting quarterbacks for the Washington Redskins last season. That combination led to a 5-11 record and the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft. There will be a new starting quarterback in Washington this season. The only question is "who?"

    If there is a big-name free agent, the Redskins are usually in the running to land him. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is not scared to dish out a lot of money to get the player he wants.

    Coach Mike Shanahan refuses to admit that the team is in a rebuilding phase. So, if we take coach Shanahan seriously, Peyton Manning would be a great option. The Redskins have plenty of cap room next season (around $40 million) not only to sign Manning but to surround him with talent as well.

    To be honest, I don’t believe Shanahan when he says the Redskins aren’t in a rebuilding mode. What else would you call a team that has had three straight losing seasons and no quarterback?

    The Redskins are the front-runners to trade up for Robert Griffin III. That alone shows a lot about what the Redskins' current state is.

    I wouldn’t rule anything out when it comes to the Washington Redskins, but they definitely aren’t the leading candidates for Peyton Manning.

3. Miami Dolphins

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    Miami hasn’t had a star quarterback since Dan Marino. Dolphins fans can’t take another season with Chad Henne as their starting quarterback. They’ve gone so far as to take billboards out in hopes of landing Peyton Manning.

    The Miami Dolphins defense played extremely well down the stretch. It has the talent to be one of the best defenses in the league. The Miami offense is another story. Reggie Bush proved to be a great addition last season, but the limitations at the quarterback position really hurt this team.

    Manning would love having a guy like Brandon Marshall to throw the ball to. Marshall showed what he is capable of doing in the Pro Bowl last January when he had a good quarterback throwing him the ball.

    I would have Miami as the No. 1 destination for Manning if Matt Flynn weren’t a free agent. New Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator from 2007 to 2011. Many people believe that he will bring Matt Flynn along with him to Miami.

    I believe this is the most probable outcome, but Manning may look too appealing to pass up. And who wouldn’t want to see Manning play against Tom Brady two times a year?

2. Arizona Cardinals

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    Last season the Arizona Cardinals traded cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a 2012 second-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for quarterback Kevin Kolb. Kolb only appeared in nine games and threw eight interceptions and fumbled the ball seven times.

    The Cardinals may not want to jump ship on Kevin Kolb just yet, considering the contract he received last year (five years, $63 million). He may also be competing for the starting job next season with John Skelton. If that doesn’t call for Peyton Manning, I don’t know what does.

    Arizona has a lot to offer Manning. The Cardinals play in a dome, which he is accustomed to from playing in Indianapolis. They have one of the best receivers in the game, in Larry Fitzgerald. (And who wouldn’t want to throw the ball to No. 11 every game?) Moving to Arizona late in his career worked out pretty well for Kurt Warner a couple years ago, so it could work with Peyton Manning.

    The big reason the Cardinals aren’t No. 1 on this list is Kevin Kolb. They would have to trade him if they signed Peyton Manning. There would be far too much money invested in two players of the same position.

    Odds are Kevin Kolb will start the season under center for the Arizona Cardinals next season.

1. Seattle Seahawks

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    I’ll admit it, I feel weird listing Seattle as the No. 1 destination for anyone. But this move just makes the most sense to me. The Seahawks may be an upgrade at quarterback away from being serious contenders.

    The Seahawks gave Tarvaris Jackson a chance last season. He was highly ineffective and never really grasped the offense. The rest of their team was pretty solid. Coach Pete Carroll has assembled a talent-filled defense full of youth. The defense was ranked ninth overall last season and could only get better.

    Running back Marshawn Lynch rushed for 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns last season. The Seahawks were able to re-sign Lynch to a four-year, $31 million contract before he hit free agency this offseason. With Lynch being the workhorse that he is, Manning's burden to perform would be lessened.

    Seattle is a great football town, and the fans would welcome Peyton Manning with open arms. Seattle is also great for Manning because it comes with about the same market size as Indianapolis. He wouldn’t be bombarded with hundreds of reporters every day like he would if he signed with a larger market (New York, Washington, etc.).

    Seattle could sweeten the deal for Manning by signing his long-time center Jeff Saturday, who is a free agent.

    This may not be the “sexy” choice for Peyton Manning, but with all things considered, I think Seattle is the best landing spot for both Peyton Manning and the Seattle Seahawks.