Breaking down the mess that Peyton Manning has left in his wake

So Peyton Manning called John Elway this morning and informed him that he has decided to join the Denver Broncos.  Now the Broncos and Manning’s representation with put the finishing touches on the contract which the parameters seemed to have been established during the recruiting process.  Here’s a breakdown on how it will affect the other teams and players left in the wake:

  • Tim Tebow, current Broncos starting QB – Tebow will now be placed on the trading block.  Tebow was an exciting player last year but he still needs time to develop into the NFL game.  Elway and Fox clearly preferred a more traditional pocket passer and they jumped at the chance to acquire Manning and mitigate whatever backlash from the fan base that would be caused by jettisoning Tebow.  Now Tebow will be shopped around to other teams, some who need a QB and even some who don’t.  The best play for Tebow would be to go somewhere where he could develop but I could imagine one of the teams desperate to sell tickets, and there is two of them down in Florida where Tebow is heralded as football royalty, might make a big push to get him in and sell tickets.
  • San Fransisco 49ers – The 49ers and Alex Smith where playing a cat and mouse game that culminated in the Niners dabbling in the Peyton sweepstakes and Smith flirting with the Dolphins and the Seahawks.  You would assume that the Niners would move quickly to bring Smith back in the fold.
  • Alex Smith, current 49ers starting QB – Smith and the Niners are clearly the best fits for each other but negotiations turned south for whatever reason and led to the situation that I outlined above.  Smith looks to have two choices now – re-sign with the 49ers or essentially punish them by signing with the Dolphins.  Of course you could make the argument that he would be punishing himself if he signed with Miami.  I think cooler heads will prevail and these two sides will get back together and work things out.  You don’t fix what’s not broken and the Niners and Smith were a score away from the Super Bowl last season.
  • Tennessee Titans – They were the other runner-up in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.  Honestly the collateral damage seems to be limited here.  The Titans made it no secret that it was an ownership call to pursue Manning and it didn’t come from the football people.  Matt Hasselbeck has always been a pro and he knows that he doesn’t have much time left in the game so he should come in and work hard like he always has.  Jake Locker shouldn’t be effected either because he was either going to develop under Hasselbeck or develop under Manning, now it should take less time for him to get in the lineup with Hasselbeck in front of him.
  • Miami Dolphins – The Dolphins are in a slightly worse position than they were yesterday.  Sure they could try and acquire Tebow but there will be 30 other teams that could be in on him.  The Manning signing puts pressure on the Niners to re-sign Smith and let’s face it – if your choices are San Fransisco and Miami who would you choose?  The only hope is that the Smith/Niners relationship is damaged beyond repair but it doesn’t seem that bad at this point.
  • Jacksonville Jaguars – The Jaguars are a new entry into the QB carousel.  Like the Titans in the Manning sweepstakes the football guys would just as well go with what they have, 2nd year QB Blaine Gabbert battling it out with newly signed Chad Henne, but their is a new ownership in Jacksonville and the Jags haven’t been able to sell tickets in years.  If it comes down to an ownership call (and as we’ve seen in the past few weeks it could happen) expect Jacksonville to jump into the Tebow derby and try to bring him home.
  • Cleveland Browns – The Browns only shot at acquiring a veteran quarterback was if Peyton chose Tennessee.  Mike Holmgren would have no doubt tried to re-unite with Matt Hasselbeck but since that won’t happen they will probably sit tight.  Unfortunately for them sitting tight probably means reaching for Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill with the #4 pick.  They could jump into the Tebow derby but I doubt they will.
  • Matt Flynn/Seattle Seahawks – Matt Flynn, the other QB on the free agent market, played his situation as best he could.  He identified the two teams, Seattle and Miami, desperate for a QB that Peyton Manning wouldn’t consider.  He visited with both of them and made a call on where he felt most comfortable.  Now both Flynn and the Seahawks can sit back and watch everything else unfold.

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NFL free agent frenzy set to begin today

This time last year NFL pundits were talking about lawyers and injunctions and collective bargaining impasses.  Fortunately the labor woes for the NFL are in the rear view mirror and we are about to have ourselves an interesting free agent session.  There seems to be a lot of guys out there this year, maybe the effects of the lockout and the uncapped year are coming into play (a lot of cuts have flooded the free agent market).  Here’s a look at some of the big names available in free agency come 4:00 PM today:

Texans DE Mario Williams

Mario Williams, DE/OLB, Houston Texans – It is looking more and more like Mario Williams might be flying the coup in Houston.  The Texans did surprisingly cut their best offensive lineman, Eric Winston, yesterday but it doesn’t look like it was to make room for a new deal for Williams.  Let’s be honest.  Houston is a young team and should be taking steps to make sure they can keep the core together.  Williams missed much of the last season and Houston still ended up with the #2 defense in the NFL.  The Texans currently have J.J. Watt, Connor Barwin, Demeco Ryans, Brooks Reed, and Brian Cushing, among others, in their front 7 so breaking the bank for Williams doesn’t seem to make sense.  I never thought Williams would be a great fit for Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defense and he may be better off going to a team that runs a 4-3.  I think that is what will wind up happening in the end.  You could probably use the Julius Peppers’ contract that the Bears signed a few years ago as a template for what the final figures on Williams’ new contract will be.  Peppers signed a 6-year, 91.5 million contract with Chicago two off seasons ago and Williams should be expected to match or exceed that.  I could see the Patriots and the Bills jumping in but I’m not sure it would be in either front office’s style to blow the competition away with a huge contract offer.  Supposedly the Bears have interest but that would be tying up a lot of cap space in one position.  The Buccaneers have a ton of cap space and are desperate for help on the defensive line.  I expect Williams to here from a whole bunch of different teams come 4:00 PM.

Chargers WR Vincent Jackson

Vincent Jackson, WR, San Diego Chargers – Jackson seems to be the last man standing in the wide receiver market.  The Bills’ Stevie Johnson was signed to a new contract and the Patriots’ Wes Welker, the Chiefs’ Dwayne Bowe, and the Eagles’ DeSean Jackson were all hit with the franchise tag.  The Steelers’ Mike Wallace could be had but he is a restricted free agent with a 1st round tender so signing him would be at a steep price.  That leaves Jackson and the Saints’ Marques Colston as the marquee guys on the free agent market.  The advantage Jackson has over Colston is that people see Colston as more of a system guy and think that Jackson could succeed anywhere.  Still the grass isn’t always greener and Jackson has a good rapport with Chargers’ quarterback Philip Rivers.  I could see Jackson going back with San Diego if he doesn’t like what he sees on the market.  I expect the market for Jackson to be robust however.  Tampa Bay, Chicago, Washington, Buffalo, New England, Denver could all be involved along with the Chargers, who still hope to retain Jackson’s services.  Jackson is a rare specimen, he is 6’5 tall and can stretch the field.  He hasn’t had a season over 70 catches however so he might be a great fit on a team that has another top receiver already.  Like Williams there should be a ton of teams lining up early for Jackson.

Saints G Carl Nicks

Carl Nicks, G, New Orleans Saints – Nicks is the guy that should have been slapped with the franchise tag by the Saints but New Orleans couldn’t get a deal done with Drew Brees so now Nicks hits the open market.  Nicks is an interesting case because his (former?) teammate and fellow guard Jahri Evans signed a 7-year, 51.5 million contract two off-seasons ago and Nicks apparently feels that he is worth more than his line mate.  So there’s the market for Nicks.  Again there should be a lot of money being spread out in the NFL the off-season so Nicks is hitting the market at the right time.  He is an exceptional run-blocker and can automatically upgrade any team’s offensive line.  You can count any team with a large amount of cap room that needs help along the offensive line as a suitor for Nicks.  That would include teams like the Bengals, the Broncos, the Bears, the Buccaneers, and the Jaguars among others.  Expect Nicks to see a rather healthy pay day when it’s all said and done.

Former Colts QB Peyton Manning

Peyton Manning, QB, Indianapolis Colts – Yeah, this guy is a free agent too.  Manning has already met with the Broncos, the Cardinals, and the Dolphins.  He plans to talk with the Titans over the next few days and there are rumblings that the Texans may get involved as well.  There was a lot of momentum for Miami being Peyton’s landing spot early in the process but that seems to have subsided.  From the outside it does look like Miami is in a tough position.  Some of the riff-raff like the Redskins and the Jets have been weeded out and now it looks like the Dolphins may actually be on the bottom of the list of remaining teams.  Manning is a god in Tennessee where he went to college.  The Texans may not just be a Super Bowl contender if they land Manning, they may become the favorites.  Arizona has the best wide receiver in the game in Larry Fitzgerald and they play indoors.  Denver has Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway running the show and 50 million in cap space.  I still see Denver as the favorite but Tennessee is an intriguing option and the Texans may become the preferred destination for Manning, we just need to find out how serious they are.  Peyton said that he had hoped to make up his mind on a new team by the start of free agency but that doesn’t even look close to being a reality.  Manning will probably want to sign soon so his new team can add around him on offense.

Other Notables:

Matt Flynn, QB, Green Bay Packers – This guy figured to reap the benefits of a team missing out on Peyton Manning but how much of a red flag would it be if the Dolphins, in desperate need at QB and former Packers OC Joe Philbin now at the helm, take a pass on Flynn?

Browns HB Peyton Hillis

Peyton Hillis, HB, Cleveland Browns – The reigning Madden cover boy is an afterthought in free agency.  He’ll probably never match his 2010 production but he could help a team if he’s paired with a speed back.

Marques Colston, WR, New Orleans Saints – Colston has been uber productive with Drew Brees and the Saints offense but their will be concern with whether or not he is a system guy.  The same goes for his teammate Robert Meachem.  Former Colts Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon are out there as well but one wonders if one or both wait on Peyton before they make a decision.

Mario Manningham, WR, New York Giants – Manningham is in an enviable position.  His Super Bowl saving catch will be fresh in the minds of GMs and that should help him come contract time even though he has been an inconsistent player in his time in the league.

Eric Winston, T, Houston Texans – This was a surprise cut yesterday.  He is a top 5 right tackle and will be a huge upgrade for some team out there.

Raiders DE Kamerion Wimbley

Kamerion Wimbley, DE/OLB, Oakland Raiders – This guy is being cut by the Raiders today.  With Mario Williams out there he is a huge under the radar guy.  He’s had 16 sacks over the past two seasons.  He can play in the 3-4 or 4-3…could be a huge upgrade for a team.

London Fletcher, LB, Washington Redskins – One of the best defensive players in football over the past decade has never signed a contract extension.  He’s never been cut either.  He’s played out every contract and never been re-signed.  It looks like he’ll be on the 4th team of his career next year.

Brandon Carr, CB, Kansas City Chiefs – Carr is the best FA cornerback on the market.  He’s only 26 and would be a top corner on many teams.

There should be some interesting moves coming up in the next 72 hours.

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Random Sunday Sports Thoughts

Some random sport thoughts on a Sunday afternoon…

  • I think John Elway really showed his hand this week when he aggressively went after Peyton Manning. He clearly does not see Tim Tebow as the long term answer at quarterback and saw an opportunity to replace Tebow with the only guy he could replace him with without causing a fan revolt. Now the question is what happens if Peyton goes somewhere else?
  • Arizona is the next stop on the Peyton Manning tour. A lot of people talk about Miami but unlike Miami the Cardinals actually play indoors and while Brandon Marshall is a good player Larry Fitzgerald is one of the top two receivers in football
  • The Redskins gave up a lot to secure the 2nd pick in the draft and Robert Griffin III. Griffin will now be the guy who makes or breaks Mike Shanahan’s tenure in Washington. One thing that is for sure is that the twice a year Vick/RG3 match-ups should be fun to watch.
  • How much will Miami overpay for Matt Flynn if they lose out on Manning?
  • It was a great championship week in college basketball and I can’t wait for the tournament to begin this week. Always one of the more fun times in sports
  • I’m already bored with preseason baseball. Can we get the actual games going already?
  • It would be a tough break for the Yankees and Rays, respectively, if they lost David Robertson or David Price for any long period of time due to fluke injuries. Somebody needs to tell Price to quit putting the towel around his neck
  • The NBA season seems to be going by way too fast. It’s tough to stay interested. That’s what happens when you lose games to a stoppage
  • The NHL season will be coming to an end soon and then the three month run to the Cup begins.
  • That’s all for now. More Red Sox previews next week as well as a tournament preview

 

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