And then there were four?
The Denver Post reports Peyton Manning has narrowed his list of free-agent destinations to four teams and could make a decision as early as Wednesday. The Denver Broncos are reportedly one of Manning's top two choices. The Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans are rumored to be next on the list, in varying order. Manning could also pull a last-minute surprise and sign with the Arizona Cardinals.
Other teams that were interested, like the San Francisco 49ers and Houston Texans, are not expected to be in the running. The possibility of a team emerging out of left field to sign the quarterback remains small, mainly because Manning's courtship has been largely conducted in the public eye.
The four-time MVP was released by the Indianapolis Colts on March 7. Since then, he's turned the tables on free-agent wooing, vetting the teams himself instead of the other way around. Reports are that Manning spent six hours with each team. He was interested in personnel, philosophies and team direction. He called around the NFL to check out the reputations of potential teammates like Brandon Marshall (who was later traded from the Miami Dolphins to the Chicago Bears) and scouted destinations with his wife and twins in mind.
The end of the process will reset the natural order. Manning will now have to hear what his final list of teams can do for him in terms of guaranteed money, contract length, assurances and team restructuring.
Will he choose the freedom of Denver, where John Fox is expected to give him free rein over the offense? Or will the cold weather and altitude keep him away?
Will he make a triumphant return to the state of Tennessee, where he starred in as a college quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers? Titans owner Bud Adams has made no secret of his desire to acquire the quarterback and teaming up with running back Chris Johnson could bring back to mind Manning's early days with Edgerrin James.
Or will Peyton follow the recent trend of athletes and take his talents to South Beach? Miami was the early front-runner for Manning's services and were long thought to be the best fit. Did the trade of Brandon Marshall help or harm the team's chances?
The questions should be answered soon. Peyton's choice is coming.
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