Potential Destinations for Peyton Manning

Story posted February 13, 2012 in

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Less than a year ago, Peyton Manning signed a five-year, $90 million deal to remain the quarterback of the Indianapolis Colts, and more than likely retire with them. Now, despite being one of the greatest quarterbacks of all-time, it seems that Manning will not return to the Colts for his 15th season with the team.

Manning missed the entire 2011 season while recovering from three neck surgeries. While he has been cleared to play next season, questions remain about how limited his recovery will be.

Without Manning this year, the Colts posted an abysmal 2-14 record while securing the top pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. Colts owner Jim Irsay has begun a rebuilding project this offseason, firing head coach Jim Caldwell, vice chairman Bill Polian and general manager Chris Polian. He also appears to be ready to select Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first pick in the draft.

If Manning is indeed shipped out of Indianapolis, there are a number of teams that could make good trade partners for the Colts.


1. Miami Dolphins


Just four years ago, Miami selected Michigan quarterback Chad Henne in the second round of the draft to be there franchise quarterback. Unfortunately, due to inconsistent play and injury problems, he was never able to meet their expectations. The Dolphins may be ready to move on after Henne spent most of 2011 on injured reserve. Backup Matt Moore was solid in place of Henne, throwing 16 touchdowns and just 9 interceptions while leading them to a 6-3 record down the stretch. But with former Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin being named the new head coach, Miami may be looking elsewhere for quarterback help. The Dolphins have had statistically better defenses in the last two seasons than Indianapolis. Offensively, Manning would be playing with a great left tackle in Jake Long, as well as several weapons like running back Reggie Bush, tight end Anthony Fasano and wide receiver Brandon Marshall. One roadblock in acquiring Manning could be Philbin's interest in Packers quarterback Matt Flynn, but if Manning is available, it could be enough to change Philbin's mind.


2. Arizona Cardinals


It was another disappointing season for Arizona, as they finished 8-8 in 2011. They invested heavily in Kevin Kolb as the quarterback of the future, trading Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second round pick to Philadelphia to acquire him and then signing him to a five-year, $63 million deal. Unfortunately, Kolb could not stay healthy and missed eight games. John Skelton provided a spark in his absence, going 6-2, but is not looked at as a future option. It may not be time to write off Kolb yet, but the possibility of Manning throwing to star receiver Larry Fitzgerald may be too tempting to pass up. It was only three seasons ago that veteran Kurt Warner led the Cardinals to the Super Bowl, and Manning could make them contenders again.


3. Washington Redskins


Washington went 5-11 in 2011, while switching back and forth between quarterbacks Rex Grossman and John Beck. With the 13th-ranked defense in the NFL and promising young players like tight end Fred Davis and running back Roy Helu on the offensive side of the ball, the Redskins could be poised for a run with a steady quarterback situation. Peyton Manning may be the answer they are looking for. Owner Daniel Snyder has a track record of acquiring big names in the offseason. The question now is whether Snyder would prefer to trade for the second pick in the draft in order to select Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III or go after Manning. Manning is definitely a possibility if he is on the market, and we could see both Manning brothers in the NFC East.


4. New York Jets


Rex Ryan has predicted Super Bowl runs in each of his three seasons as head coach of the New York Jets, but none of his predictions have come to fruition. After two AFC Championship runs, the 2011 season marked the biggest disappointment yet, as the team finished 8-8 and did not make the postseason. A big reason would have to be the play of quarterback Mark Sanchez. After trading several draft picks and players to move up in the draft and select Sanchez out of Southern California in 2009, the Jets invested $50 million in Sanchez's five-year deal. Sanchez's progress seemed to be stunted in 2011, and 8-8 is not an acceptable finish for a team with the fifth-ranked defense in the league. The team will have some of the same weapons next season, with tight end Dustin Keller and wide receivers Santonio Holmes and Plaxico Burress all potentially remaining with the team. Acquiring Manning would make the Jets instant title contenders, and would be huge news in the city of New York where his brother Eli also plays.


5. San Francisco 49ers


The 49ers are the only team on this list that made the playoffs this year, but it was not because of great quarterback play. Alex Smith was an excellent game manager, throwing for 17 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. San Francisco had the fourth-ranked defense in the league despite being young, and would seem to be only getting better under head coach Jim Harbaugh. With established and emerging stars like Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman and Aldon Smith on defense, that side of the ball seems set for several years to come. And offensively there are several threats, including running back Frank Gore and tight end Vernon Davis. Despite Smith's improvements, the team failed in the NFC Championship. Smith is now a free agent, which may put the 49ers in position to make a move for Manning without having to deal with another quarterback in the mix. Adding Manning would make San Francisco the favorite to win the Super Bowl in 2012, and are the best option for Manning to win his second title.

Manning would make almost any team in the NFL better instantly, and these five teams in particular would make huge leaps with Manning at the helm. What Indianapolis decides to do with Manning is one of the most intriguing storylines of this offseason.


Joe Garofalo is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email jwg5403@psu.edu.