In a move that shouldn't surprise any person in a non-vegetative state, the Indianapolis Colts are expected to announce the release of former franchise face Peyton Manning Wednesday, ending a multi-week game of posturing and spin doctoring by the QB and Indy owner Jim Irsay.
The Boba Fett of the NFL, New Orleans, must be thrilled.
Naturally, the first reaction for football fans, particularly those interested in the joys of fantasy, is where he'll end up and what impact his chosen employer will have on his 2012 fantasy value. Last check, several teams have openly or discreetly expressed their desire to bring in the future Hall of Famer, provided his once noodle arm strengthens. Insiders claim the passer has made tremendous strides in his recovery. A leaked video of a March 2 workout at Duke University verified those claims. Some will say the clip was purposely released by No. 18's camp in an attempt to sway doubters and boost his value on the open market. If the video is indeed legit, ESPN says it independently authenticated it, the clip certainly did what it was intended to do. In the short recording the QB slung the ball with noticeable zip and accuracy, proving he's further along than originally reported.
If that version of Manning shows up at workouts for potential employers in the next few weeks, teams will be willing to sacrifice life and limb to lock up the 36-year-old's services. As of now, Washington, Miami, New York (Jets), Kansas City, Arizona, San Francisco and Seattle are the most likely destinations. But with unrestricted free agent Matt Flynn expected to be chased and the NFL draft just weeks away it's realistic only a handful of teams are willing to take on the risk. Rumors have already surfaced the Redskins are prepared to mortgage their future to trade up for Robert Griffin III. Miami and Cleveland are also in the mix. Whoever loses out on the RGIII sweepstakes will surely turn their attention to the vet post-draft.
Ultimately, Manning will make the right decision for his family and career. Just like every player that wears an NFL uniform, he wants to win a championship before Father Time permanently erodes his skills. With a quality ground game, Brandon Marshall, an emerging defense and revamped spread scheme under new head coach Joe Philbin, the Dolphins are in the best position to pursue Peyton.
Could you imagine Manning throwing passes to arguably the league's best receiver, Larry Fitzgerald? Kevin Kolb's exorbitant contract stickies the fantastic marriage, but it's not out of the realm of possibility. The Cardinals have many of the qualities that would appeal to Manning — plays home games indoors, low-pressure environment, rising defense, exploitable division, flexible coach with Super Bowl credentials. The match makes so much sense, it's no wonder betting site Pregame.com lists Arizona as the frontrunner. Kurt Warner revived his once dying career in the desert. Manning could soon follow suit.
Under that scenario, the former Colt (Full disclosure: Felt very weird typing that) should be viewed as a mid-tiered QB1, ranked behind Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Cam Newton, Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford and possibly brother Eli. Assuming his health checks out, he would be higher on the Noise's draft board than Philip Rivers, Michael Vick, Matt Ryan and Tony Romo. Remember, he's only two years removed from a top-three fantasy season (23.1 ppg in '10). And keep in mind it's likely 'Zona will add a formidable No. 2 WR via the draft or free agency. Reggie Wayne or Pierre Garcon anyone?
There are a ton of variables at play, but, in the right situation, Manning should again rise to fantasy prominence.
Hopefully, in Miami or Arizona.
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