Peyton Manning Reportedly Cleared to Play: Top Destinations? (AFC South Fan’s Take)

The saga between Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning and owner Jim Irsay continues.

ESPN had reported that Manning was cleared to play as of February 2, 2012. Manning was supposedly cleared by team neurosurgeon Dr. Hank Feuer.

Irsay responded via Twitter at approximately 12:30 A.M. on February 3. According to Irsay:

Peyton has not passed our physical nor has he been cleared to play for The Indianapolis Colts. Team statement coming on Friday.

The Colts must pay Manning a $28-million roster bonus if he's still on the roster on March 8. That doesn't seem likely since the Colts are already in a rebuilding phase with a new coaching staff and front office. Manning could also restructure his deal to stay in Indianapolis. However, would the Colts want Andrew Luck to start during his rookie season? Do they want either one of these quarterbacks looking over their shoulder at one another?

Let's assume that the Colts let Manning walk. Here are ten destinations where an argument could be made for Manning joining these franchises. I'd consider the top-four destinations (and the Colts) as the likeliest destinations.

No. 10: Denver Broncos

Tim Tebow might be the most marketable and publicized player in sports. While John Elway wants to win, the NFL is a business first. The backlash would be pretty severe if the Denver Broncos already quit on Tebow following an appearance in the divisional playoffs.

I'd expect the Broncos to do everything in their power to improve Tebow's passing ability. It just makes business sense for them to at least try for the next couple of seasons.

No. 9: Minnesota Vikings

The Minnesota Vikings already tried this with Brett Favre. They reached the NFC Championship during the 2009-10 season. This was one of their most successful seasons in franchise history.

Manning might like the idea of finishing his career in a dome. Of course, that isn't guaranteed. The Vikings currently have so many problems with their organization. They're not even sure where they'll play these next few seasons.

Doesn't sound like a healthy situation for Manning to be involved with.

No. 8 Through No. 7: Arizona Cardinals or Seattle Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks could use an upgrade for Tarvaris Jackson. The Arizona Cardinals already have a quarterback dilemma with Kevin Kolb and John Skelton. Skelton has proven that he can win games during the fourth quarter and in overtime.

I just can't envision Manning playing for either of these West Coast teams. They're not Super Bowl contenders with him. There's also a more intriguing option inside the NFC West.

No. 6: Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins haven't won a playoff game since Dan Marino retired after the 1999-00 season. They've gone through 16 different starting quarterbacks during that period. Matt Moore and Chad Henne probably aren't their long-term solutions. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III probably won't be around when they draft in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

There are some advantages for Manning if he joins the Dolphins. The Dolphins are an AFC team, they're a good retirement city and they play the Colts in 2012. I just don't see them resorting to such temporary solutions when they just hired head coach Joe Philbin this offseason. Matt Flynn would be a better fit here.

No. 5: Dallas Cowboys

Led by owner Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys are known for making offseason headlines. Manning could be the one quarterback who convinces Jones to reconsider his stance on Tony Romo.

I could see this being the NFL's "Prince Fielder to the Detroit Tigers" type of surprise for this upcoming offseason. However, Romo helps his case in that he's coming off one of his best seasons (albeit an 8-8 record). Manning would also be taking a huge risk by playing behind that offensive line.

No. 4: San Francisco 49ers

I feel like these are the four teams (plus the Colts) who have the best argument for grabbing Manning this offseason (even if they shouldn't).

The San Francisco 49ers are the team that some football enthusiasts would argue is "A quarterback away" from winning a Super Bowl. Yet, head coach Jim Harbaugh stayed loyal with Alex Smith after most people had quit on him. Would Harbaugh quit on him after a season with 14 victories and a NFC Championship appearance?

The 49ers' main focus should be finding a go-to wide receiver and some offensive linemen who can protect Smith. Manning would be tempting though.

No. 3: Tennessee Titans

Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams is 89-years-old. Adams wants to win a Super Bowl before he moves on. Those dreams could rest on the arms of Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker.

Does Adams have time to wait on Locker to "Possibly" develop into a franchise quarterback? Vince Young never won a playoff game in five seasons. Steve McNair was in his fifth season (third season as a full-time starter) before he won his first playoff game during the 1999-00 season. Adams would be going on 93-years-old if that occurred.

Manning's presence would give this franchise some new fans in East Tennessee. That's due to his connection with the Tennessee Volunteers. One mustn't forget about the twice-per-year revenge factor and the familiarity that Manning would have with AFC South opponents.

As a Titans follower, I prefer moving ahead with Locker. But I wouldn't be surprised if Manning was considered. And honestly, I couldn't blame Adams.

No. 2: Washington Redskins

Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is another owner who uses free agency as his primary option for building a team. Head coach Mike Shanahan could also be pressured into winning after going 11-21 in his first two seasons with Washington.

Shanahan's job would currently rest on the arms of John Beck or Rex Grossman. The Redskins probably won't be in position to draft Luck or Griffin III. That makes Washington a likely destination for Manning or Flynn. Flynn is more of a project while Manning is a Super Bowl champion. The Redskins don't appear like a franchise that will exude enough patience on Flynn.

No. 1: New York Jets

The New York Jets traded for Brett Favre in 2008. That was following a 4-12 season. The Jets finished with a 9-7 record after they lost four of their final five games with Eric Mangini.

The Jets have played in two conference championships under head coach Rex Ryan. This would be the type of highlight signing that I'd expect from a franchise like the Jets. The Jets are much closer to being a legitimate playoff threat than they were heading into that 2008-09 season.

Honorable Mentions: Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs

Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs and Nashville Predators. He also follows the Tennessee Titans, his favorite AFC team.

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Updated Friday, Feb 3, 2012