Following a somber and frankly depressing exit in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning quickly became the most prized free agent in NFL history. Andrew Luck became the heir-apparent to Manning’s throne, leaving the legend to choose which franchise is worthy of his services.
A number of teams are doing everything they can to get Peyton to sign on the dotted line, and Peyton will get to hand-pick where it is he wants to go. The following are a number of destinations for the future Hall of Famer.
Kansas City Chiefs
Although Manning hasn’t visited Kansas City yet and there have been reports that the team may be out of the running, it would still make a lot of sense for him to go there.
The Chiefs play in the AFC West, which is easily the weakest division in football, and Manning would be able to come in and make the division his own. Manning would inherit a strong, young defense led by star safety Eric Berry, as well as a number of offensive weapons in tight end Tony Moeaki and wide receivers Steve Breaston and Dwayne Bowe. Also, with superstar running back Jamaal Charles coming back after an injury, the Chiefs' offense could be deadly.
If Manning went to Kansas City, the Chiefs would immediately become favorites in a very poor division.
Titans owner Bud Adams recently stated he’s interested in bringing in Manning, but it isn’t a realistic move. The Titans have a quarterback for the present in Matt Hasselbeck and the future in Jake Locker. After years of sharing a division, it’s unlikely Manning will go to the team he’s so accustomed to beating.
Apparent front-runners for Manning, the Denver Broncos would upgrade tremendously at quarterback, a position currently held by Tim Tebow. However, Denver may not be as great of a destination as it seems.
The Bronco’s offense was recently tailored to suit the (in)abilities of Tebow. No team ran the ball more frequently or effectively than Denver last season. But Manning is used to throwing as he pleases, which means either he or Denver’s coaches would have to change their ways.
However, there are reasons why Manning may select Denver. The Broncos' defense showed flashes of brilliance last year, and their offense has a number of young weapons in Eddie Royal, Demaryius Thomas and the ageless Willis McGahee. Similar to Kansas City, if Manning comes to town, the Broncos would be the favorites to the division.
Although Manning may end up wanting to work with John Elway, it may not be as great of a fit as it seems.
The Dolphins would need to overtake the Patriots and Tom Brady if they want to become playoff contenders in the AFC East, and who better to knock him off than Manning, his longtime rival?
Manning owns a home in Miami, so he knows how great the weather and atmosphere is. And the Dolphins boast a young team full of potential. Miami's defense is serviceable, and Manning would definitely make up for the team's flaws.
An inability to win close games was the Dolphins’ Achilles heel last season, so they still have potential to be a good team. Reggie Bush looked more like the player he was supposed to be last year, and Manning would have a number of receiving weapons such as Davone Bess, Brian Hartline and Brandon Marshall, who’s one the best when he’s on his game. Throw in the security of knowing he has Jake Long blocking for him and Manning would feel right at home in South Beach.
Shaquille O’Neal made a big splash years ago by going to the desert to play for the Suns. However, if Manning went to the Cardinals, it would be the only time anyone would make a bigger splash than the Shaqtus.
If the Cardinals can trade Kevin Kolb, who is currently under a massive contract, it would make a ton of sense for Manning to go to Arizona. They have a great head coach in Ken Whisenhunt and a solid defense with a strong secondary led by Adrian Wilson and budding superstar Patrick Peterson.
The Arizona offense is really only missing one piece: a star quarterback. Running back Beanie Wells had a breakout year last year, running for more than 1,000 yards; tight end Todd Heap showed he still has it; and Early Doucet proved to be a strong No. 2 receiver.
But the factor that sets Arizona apart is wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald — his knack for making circus catches has earned him the reputation of being the best receiver in the league. Manning’s pinpoint accuracy combined with Fitzgerald’s vice grip-like hands would make for easily the best quarterback-to-wide receiver combination in the league. When you add the fact that the Cardinals play on a fast track similar to that of Indianapolis, Arizona looks like an appealing destination for Manning.
It’ll be nearly impossible to guess where Manning will end up, but wherever it may be, the lucky team will rocket into playoff contention. Manning’s main objective is winning championships, and it’ll be interesting to see if he can do so without the horseshoe on his helmet.