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Thursday, February 23, 2012
Why Miami is best for Peyton Manning

By James Walker

Manning Billboard
On the field and off, Peyton Manning seems like a good fit for the Miami Dolphins.
MIAMI -- Memo to Peyton Manning: If things don't work out in Indianapolis over the next several weeks -- and they probably won't -- it's time to take your talents to South Beach.

Yes, Manning should be the next superstar player to land in Miami. The Colts are expected to release Manning before his $28 million bonus is due in March. Indianapolis holds the No. 1 overall pick, which will kick off the Andrew Luck era while simultaneously ending the Manning era.

It's time for Manning, if he's healthy, to make another team a Super Bowl contender. The Dolphins can't make their pitch while Manning is still under contract. But there is nothing illegal about the AFC East blog doing some early legwork and making a pitch for the Dolphins instead.

Here are five reasons why Manning to Miami is the ideal fit:

Reason No. 1: The Dolphins have the right pieces in place

Pro Bowl receiver? Check. Pro Bowl left tackle? Check. A solid running game with a 1,000-yard rusher? Check and check.

Besides a franchise quarterback, Miami's offense doesn't need much. The Dolphins showed how dangerous they can be with a competent quarterback, Matt Moore. Miami made up for its 0-7 start by finishing 6-3 in its final nine games.

The Dolphins would be even better with Manning. He instantly would turn Miami into a contender and a serious threat to supplant the New England Patriots in the AFC East and the conference as a whole.

Brandon Marshall would look like the receiver we saw in the Pro Bowl, where he was the game's MVP. Tailback Reggie Bush would have even more running lanes in 2012. Jake Long, arguably the best left tackle in football, would protect Manning's blind side and his surgically repaired neck. Manning cannot get better blindside protection unless he goes to Cleveland, which has left tackle Joe Thomas. And that’s not happening.

The New York Jets are a mess offensively. The Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins have poor offensive lines. And what receivers would Manning throw to in San Francisco?

Miami has all the right pieces for Manning to step right in and thrive.

Reason No. 2: The defense is primed, ready

Unlike Indianapolis, in Miami not all the pressure would be on Manning to put up 30 points per game. Miami allowed just 19.6 points per game this past season.

Do not be fooled by Miami's final ranking. The Dolphins finished 15th in the NFL in total yards, but that number was skewed by their awful 0-7 start. Miami eventually regained its 2010 form and was a top-10 defense in the second half of the season. The Dolphins have talent at every level defensively, and there's no reason to believe they won't have another strong unit next season.

Miami's defense could help Manning just as much as he could help the defense. The Dolphins' defense and special teams -- led by punter Brandon Fields -- are good at winning the field-position battle. If Manning could put points on the board early, that would help make opposing offenses one-dimensional.

The Dolphins' defense would benefit greatly from the increased scoring and fewer turnovers that Manning would provide.

Reason No. 3: Miami's owner has deep pockets

I don't know if money is important to Manning at this stage of his career. But Miami owner Stephen Ross has deep pockets and is willing to pay whatever is necessary.

Whether searching for a coach or chasing top free agents, Ross has made it clear that money isn’t an issue. The Dolphins are not in bad shape with the salary cap. Unlike the Jets, Miami has some wiggle room to fit Manning in.

If Manning is released, health concerns about his neck will be the primary reason. Therefore, expect Manning to sign an incentive-laden contract that protects his next team if he is injured. But look for Ross and the Dolphins to be among the highest bidders.

Reason No. 4: Location, location, location

Miami provides advantages for Manning on and off the field.

For starters, any offense with Manning will be a pass-heavy scheme. Manning is used to playing indoors and wants to throw the football 30-40 times a game. He can do that in Miami, where the weather is warm all year.

Of Manning's suitors, only the Arizona Cardinals can compete with Miami's weather. The Cardinals also play in a dome, which Manning would prefer. Arizona gets the edge there.

But here is something the Cardinals can't match: Manning reportedly owns property in Miami. His family likes it in South Florida, and the entire transition to the Dolphins would be easier. You cannot underrate the importance of family when Manning makes his final decision.

Reason No. 5: The chance to beat Tom Brady

Let's be honest: There's some unfinished business between Manning and Brady.

The two best quarterbacks of this era have had classic battles over the past dozen years. But Manning sat out this past season while his little brother, Eli Manning, carried the torch in this rivalry and beat Brady for the second time in a Super Bowl.

Peyton hasn't had the same success against Brady. Peyton is 5-8 against him, which includes some big playoff defeats. When both are retired, there will be plenty of debate on which quarterback was better. Brady owns the head-to-head advantage now, a big argument in his favor.

But it’s not too late for Peyton to make up that margin, especially if he comes to the AFC East and plays Brady at least twice a season. The Dolphins can give Peyton the type of supporting cast on offense and defense that it takes to beat Brady.

Brady and Manning are down to their last years, and both desperately want at least one more ring before they retire. Manning should try to get that ring in Miami.