There is huge news coming out of Indianapolis just a few days before the Super Bowl. ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter report that Colts quarterback Peyton Manning has been medically cleared to resume football activities.
Manning missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury. But given this report, it is very promising that Manning will play again in 2012.
Here is what this news could mean for the AFC East:
Two teams in the AFC East have interest in Manning: the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins. Both clubs should be giving a quiet round of applause. If Manning is almost ready to return, the biggest question becomes, which uniform will he wear in the fall? The Dolphins and Jets are two teams that should be in the thick of the Manning sweepstakes. A healthy Manning has the potential to turn either club into a contender.
I'm not sure how much this changes Manning's status with the Colts. That may be a better question for AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky. But the expectation before this news was that Manning would be released to avoid his $28 million bonus. Paying such a bonus would mean the Colts are ready to give Manning a long-term commitment in the range of two or three more years. With Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck about to be on board, and Manning coming off a major injury, it's probably best to just cut bait.
The Dolphins are free to pursue any quarterback they want. But the Jets need to tread carefully if they're going to chase Manning. Publicly, the team is backing starting quarterback Mark Sanchez, and it would send a bad message to the third-year quarterback if New York went after Manning. Therefore, the Jets should go after Manning only if they are sure they can get him. A failed attempt would only dent an already fractured locker room and Sanchez's confidence.