AFC East: Arizona Cardinals

After the Buffalo Bills signed former quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a $59 million extension in November 2011, I wrote that Fitzpatrick must prove he's not the next Kevin Kolb, who was a struggling, unproven quarterback with a big contract.

Kolb
Fitzpatrick quickly went bust a year and a half later. So what did the Bills do? They replaced Fitzpatrick with Kolb, who has become the poster child for overpaying for quarterbacks too soon.

Buffalo agreed to a two-year contract worth a maximum of $13 million with Kolb this weekend. The money isn't huge for the position, but it suggests Kolb is the favorite to be the Bills' starter in 2013. Kolb is still trying to prove he can be a legitimate starting quarterback entering his seventh season. Kolb is 9-12 as a starter and is also playing on his third team in four years.

The Bills are merely spinning their wheels with this move. Kolb, 28, is not the quarterback of the future for Buffalo, and it's questionable if he can be a solid option for the present.

There are reasons Kolb did not work in Philadelphia or Arizona. Chances are, Bills rookie head coach Doug Marrone cannot do wonders and turn Kolb's career around in the same way respected offensive coaches Andy Reid and Ken Whisenhunt also failed. The Bills are hoping the third time is the charm. But it’s unlikely Kolb will suddenly find consistency, be able to stay healthy for 16 games and win big in Buffalo. All of this is against his six-year track record.

The only good I can see from this move is Buffalo no longer has the pressure of drafting a quarterback in the first round. This is a weak quarterback draft class and the Bills were desperate to find a starter. Now, they have more flexibility to use the No. 8 overall pick on other needs instead of taking a risk with first-round quarterback prospects like Geno Smith or Matt Barkley. Buffalo appears more likely to find a quarterback it can develop, such as Ryan Nassib, EJ Manuel, Landry Jones or Tyler Bray, in the second or third round.

In a perfect world, Kolb can be a successful and productive two-year bridge for the Bills to one of these young quarterbacks. But based on his last two-year stint with Arizona, the Kolb era in Buffalo has the potential to get ugly.

The New York Jets have been looking far and wide for legitimate quarterback competition for Mark Sanchez. The best the Jets could do so far was David Garrard, who hasn't thrown a pass in the regular season since 2010.

But another enticing option emerged for the Jets on Friday when the Arizona Cardinals released former starter Kevin Kolb. New York would be wise to go after Kolb's services. In fact, there are reasons to believe the Jets may be the favorites.

Kolb spent the early part of his career with the Philadelphia Eagles developing under Marty Mornhinweg, who is now the offensive coordinator in New York. Kolb is proficient in the West Coast offense and knows Mornhinweg's version of the system well. Kolb also will have a chance to compete for a starting job in New York, which has to be appealing.

As usual, a potential Jets-Kolb marriage could come down to money. The Jets have a tight salary cap and must be careful not to be outbid by other teams with deeper pockets. Matt Cassel recently signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings, and Kolb may get similar offers on the open market. If the Jets get into a bidding war, that would lower New York's chances.

Kolb is not the long-term solution for a quarterback to build a team around. But right now the Jets need competency at quarterback during this rough rebuilding stage. Kolb certainly fits that description.

Unless the Jets are falling asleep at the wheel in free agency, expect New York to be strong contenders for Kolb.
Here are the most interesting stories Friday in the AFC East: Morning take: The Patriots are trying to get proven veterans on the cheap by letting the market settle. No one has signed Wilson or Abraham after the initial push, so the Patriots will see if either will sign at their price.
  • West Virginia Geno Smith says he has a private workout with the Buffalo Bills next week.
Morning take: The Bills are desperate for a quarterback and hold the No. 8 overall pick. Other teams ahead of Buffalo like the Oakland Raiders, Cleveland Browns and Arizona Cardinals may also be interested.
  • Former Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long continues to meet with the St. Louis Rams.
Morning take: It’s been a long (no pun intended) stay in St. Louis. Health is probably a huge issue since the Rams would have to invest a lot of money in the former No. 1 overall pick.
  • The New York Jets could have interest once the Arizona Cardinals release quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Morning take: Kolb played in Philadelphia under new Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. New York will run a similar West Coast system, and Kolb would compete with Mark Sanchez and David Garrard.

What's the market for QB Matt Moore?

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The Miami Dolphins are expected to lose backup quarterback Matt Moore to free agency in March. The unrestricted free agent is entering the quarterback market at a good time, considering the position is thin in both the draft and free agency.

Moore, who should get plenty of interest, said in the past that he prefers a team with a questionable quarterback situation. In essence, Moore wants a chance to compete in training camp for a starting job, which is something he wouldn’t have in Miami behind Ryan Tannehill.

Teams like the Cleveland Browns, Arizona Cardinals, and even the New York Jets in the AFC East may show interest in Moore. He’s a cheap alternative at quarterback who brings starting experience. Moore is 13-12 in his career as a starter.

Moore is capable enough to win a starting job in a handful of places. He also won't wreck a team’s salary cap. Moore is the type of low-risk, high-reward signing that should catch the attention of various teams.
The Buffalo Bills are interested in former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith and the feeling is mutual. Both sides reportedly will meet this weekend, as Smith will become the most accomplished NFL coach on Buffalo's interview list so far.

Smith
Whether Smith is at the top of Buffalo's wish list remains to be seen. But for Bills fans, the idea of hiring Smith may open up old wounds left by previous head coaches Chan Gailey and Dick Jauron.

Buffalo's last two coaches were NFL "retreads" -- coaches who were fired by one NFL team but given a second chance in Buffalo. Gailey's failed stint with the Dallas Cowboys and Jauron's failed stint with Chicago were warning signs that neither was a good head coach. The Bills took that chance anyway and ruined the past seven seasons for the franchise.

Smith now has that infamous "retread" label after getting fired this week by Chicago. But if you look more deeply at the numbers, Smith is as intriguing a candidate as he is polarizing.

There are plenty of reasons to believe in Smith, such as his 81-63 record, his 6-3 mark in the playoffs, and one Super Bowl appearance. There also are reasons not to believe in Smith, such as his six non-playoff seasons in nine years and his consistently horrendous offenses in Chicago.

How polarizing was Smith in Chicago? Look no further than the fact that he was just fired after a 10-6 season. That rarely happens. But the spectrum of opinions was so wide with Smith that the Bears decided it was best to start over.

There are good NFL retreads and bad NFL retreads. The Bills had a pair of misses recently with Gailey and Jauron. But if Buffalo goes the same retread route this year with a coach like Smith or former Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, the Bills better get this call correct.
The Buffalo Bills began their coaching search this week. Several early names have already surfaced, some of which were outlined Wednesday in the AFC East blog.

Although more names will surely come up, here are some early thoughts on Buffalo's first round of candidates.

Ken Whisenhunt, former Arizona Cardinals head coach

Whisenhunt
The good: Whisenhunt comes with good head-coaching experience and Super Bowl experience with the Arizona Cardinals. Whisenhunt also worked with Bills assistant general manager Doug Whaley in Pittsburgh; that familiarity helps. Whisenhunt is a good offensive mind when he has a quality quarterback, such as Kurt Warner or Ben Roethlisberger.

The bad: Whisenhunt is another retread -- a head coach who was fired for failing somewhere else and then given a second chance by Buffalo. That trend hasn't worked well for the Bills, who hired the wrong retreads in Chan Gailey and Dick Jauron. Whisenhunt's career record is 45-51 and he led Arizona to the playoffs in only two of his six seasons there.

Ray Horton, Cardinals defensive coordinator

Horton
The good: Horton is an up-and-coming assistant who could infuse energy into the Bills. Like Whisenhunt, Horton also has Pittsburgh ties to Whaley -- both came up in the successful Steelers' organization. Horton could be the next assistant ready to become a quality head coach. He is getting plenty of interest from several teams.

The bad: Horton is somewhat of an unknown with zero head-coaching experience. Is he the next Mike Tomlin or the next Jauron? You never know for sure. Horton has only been defensive coordinator for two seasons. Horton is very much a defensive coach and would require a strong offensive coordinator to call the shots on the other side of the football.

Lovie Smith, former Chicago Bears head coach

Smith
The good: Smith was head coach of the Bears for nine years and holds a solid 81-63 record. He is 3-3 in the playoffs with one Super Bowl appearance. That is proof that Smith knows how to win in the postseason. Smith has an even-keeled demeanor that worked well in a large, pressure-packed city like Chicago. Buffalo pales in comparison and is a much smaller market.

The bad: Smith, another retread, only led Chicago to the playoffs in three of his nine seasons. That's not a good ratio. Smith didn't have many awful years, but he didn't have many tremendous years, either. The Bears were about average and finished with seven to nine wins in four of Smith's nine seasons. Smith is a good defensive coach, but his offenses have been terrible. The Bears were 23rd or worse in total offense in all but one of Smith's nine seasons.

Mike McCoy, Denver Broncos offensive coordinator

McCoy
The good: McCoy's star continues to rise after the stellar job he's done the past two years with quarterbacks Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning -- two very different signal-callers in terms of experience level and talents. Yet, McCoy thrived and made it to at least the divisional round with both players. Buffalo is unsure of its quarterback situation. But whoever next year's quarterback is, he'll most likely would benefit if taught by McCoy.

The bad: The Bills, or any other team, must wait for McCoy to finish his season. The Broncos are expected to make a deep playoff run. Some predict Denver will make it the Super Bowl. That would significantly push back any timeline for the Bills to get started with McCoy -- and time is of the essence.

Chip Kelly, University of Oregon head coach

Kelly
The good: Kelly is an innovative coach whose fast-paced, up-tempo offense is redefining the sport. New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick credits Kelly for helping the Patriots improve their tempo on offense this season. Kelly has produced plenty of NFL players during his tenure at Oregon.

The bad: The pro level isn't for every college coach. Even top college coaches such as Nick Saban failed in the NFL. Can Kelly make it in the pros? That's the big unknown. But Kelly has a cushy job at Oregon and tons of interest from other NFL teams. The Bills might have to pay top dollar and perhaps get into a bidding war to convince Kelly to leave the college ranks and choose Buffalo over other NFL teams.

This is a good list to start for Buffalo. The Bills are doing a good job of getting right to work and lining up as many coaching candidates as possible.

Which coach out of this group would be the best fit for Buffalo?

Rapid Reaction: Jets 7, Cardinals 6

December, 2, 2012
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The Jets rallied to beat the Cardinals 7-6 on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, but they created a quarterback controversy -- and, surprise, it doesn't involve Tim Tebow. A struggling Mark Sanchez was benched for the first time in his career, and Greg McElroy -- in his NFL debut -- sparked the team and the crowd. He led the game's only touchdown drive.

What it means: The Jets (5-7) kept their faint playoff hopes alive with an ugly win, but the larger issue is the quarterback situation. This was a bombshell decision by Rex Ryan, and it will have long-term ramifications. Remember, Sanchez is owed $8.25 million in guarantees for 2013, so his return is highly likely. In the short term, who starts next week? It's a multiple-choice question for Ryan.

The Decision: Ryan was justified to pull Sanchez (10-for-21, 97 yards) with 4:48 remaining in the third quarter. In 10 possessions, Sanchez threw three interceptions and failed to put any points on the board. The first two interceptions, made by former Jets safety Kerry Rhodes, were bad decisions and horrible throws. Patrick Peterson made a terrific play on the third interception, a deep ball to Chaz Schilens. The crowd was chanting for McElroy. Ryan had been fiercely loyal to Sanchez, but something had to be done.

He-e-e-e-re's Greg: McElroy was active for the first time because Tebow (fractured ribs) didn't dress. McElroy, a former seventh-round pick from Alabama, didn't do anything spectacular, but he didn't make any turnovers, he managed the game and he led a 69-yard drive for the go-ahead score. He hit Jeff Cumberland for a 1-yard scoring pass, a well-executed bootleg on play-action. The kid is smart and has moxie, if not a rifle arm.

Conspiracy theory: That Tebow sat one week after dressing with the same injury will fuel speculation that the Jets did it to move McElroy up the depth chart without demoting Tebow. Clearly, Ryan doesn't see Tebow as the answer at quarterback. Maybe this was his way of getting McElroy one step closer to the starting job.

Regards to Hollywood: Ryan's worst nightmare played out before his eyes. Rhodes, whom Ryan called a "selfish-ass" player with a Hollywood attitude, made two interceptions -- both in the first quarter. Rhodes also forced a fumble, setting up a field goal by another ex-Jet, Jay Feely. The Jets traded Rhodes before the 2010 season, a deal that looks terrible now. GM Mike Tannenbaum used the two draft picks acquired from the Cards to select Joe McKnight and McElroy. Interesting, huh?

Fooled again: The once-vaunted special-teams unit continues to embarrass itself on a weekly basis. This time, the Jets got suckered on a fake punt, setting up a field goal. It was a gutsy call by the Cards -- fourth-and-7 from their own 25 with 1:11 left in the first half -- but it appeared to be an audible based on the "overload" look on the Jets' punt-rushing front. Rashad Johnson took a direct snap and raced 40 yards.

Great defense: Facing overmatched rookie Ryan Lindley (10-for-31, 72 yards), the Jets' defense pitched a near-perfect game. They held the Cards to 0-for-15 on third down. Lindley was hopeless, often missing receivers by several yards.

Tebow takes a seat: As expected, Tebow was inactive. He was medically cleared, sources said, but he sat based on a coach's decision.

What's ahead: The Jets hit the road to face the struggling Jaguars (2-10). The storyline will be Tebow's return to his hometown, but it could feature a new starting quarterback for the Jets.

AccuScore: Patriots improve to 2-0

September, 13, 2012
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The New England Patriots are the only AFC East team who will win in Week 2, according to AccuScore. The Patriots are a big, 87-percent favorite to improve to 2-0 Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals at Gillette Stadium.

Quarterback Tom Brady is undefeated in his last nine home openers in New England. Meanwhile, the Cardinals have quarterback issues. This appears to be one of the safest picks in the week.

Morning take: Dareus expects to play

September, 13, 2012
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Here are the most interesting stories Thursday in the AFC East: Morning take: Dareus will be emotional and motivated following the passing of his brother. The Bills will support Dareus this week during this tough time.
Morning take: I don't think the Patriots will have much of a problem. I never thought Kolb was a franchise quarterback. The Cardinals made a big mistake giving him a huge contract.
  • Here is the video that has Houston Texans players calling Miami Dolphins guard Richie Incognito dirty.
Morning take: Watch for yourself and decide.
  • Is Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III a version of Tim Tebow who can throw?
Morning take: Tebow is not a starting-caliber quarterback, and Griffin is or at least will be. Both can run, but I don’t think this is an accurate comparison.

Seven-step drop: How good are the Jets?

September, 10, 2012
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Here are seven notes and observations from Week 1 in the AFC East:

  • There was an “I told you so” attitude with the New York Jets after their 48-28 blowout of the Buffalo Bills Sunday. Not only did the Jets (1-0) prove a lot of skeptics wrong in Week 1, but they did it against a Buffalo (0-1) team that received a lot of good press and offseason hype. It’s only one game, but the big question now is, “How good is New York?” The Jets were picked by many to be a third-place team in the AFC East and to finish around .500 this year. But they look dangerous when playing complementary football. It was a complete performance by the Jets Sunday where the offense fed off the defense, which also fed off special teams. If this is the type of Jets team we will see consistently, then perhaps the Jets are better than most thought. We could have a better indication of where New York stands next week when the Jets travel to play the Pittsburgh Steelers (0-1).
  • Also, the Jets’ receiving corps deserves a lot of credit for its production. Santonio Holmes, rookie Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley consistently schooled Buffalo’s young cornerbacks. The Jets had receivers running free regularly on Sunday, even during incompletions. New York quarterback Mark Sanchez did a good job taking care of the football and taking chances deep at the right time. Holmes, Hill and Kerley all had at least four receptions. “It was a great performance by us,” Holmes said. “The game plan went really smooth this week. Guys were paying attention to details. Everything just felt great and we put on a show.”
  • [+] EnlargeMario Williams
    Kellen Micah/ICON SMIMario Williams, right, took issue with the way Austin Howard pass blocked on Sunday.
    How did Jets' unknown offensive tackle Austin Howard keep Bills Pro Bowl defensive end Mario Williams at bay? According to Williams, Howard cheated. “Pass blocking doesn’t consist of using your hands to the face on every play,” Williams said afterwards. Howard, with some help, pitched a shutout against Williams, who was held to just one tackle with zero sacks and one quarterback pressure. Williams made a point to say Howard illegally and consistently used hands to the face as his primary method. According to Williams, he told the replacement officials on several occasions. “You don’t listen or even call it one time out of the 20 that were there?” a frustrated Williams said. “That’s really disheartening for everyone.” Jets head coach Rex Ryan had a different take. “Austin Howard played a tremendous game,” Ryan said. “Maybe he made a name for himself today.”
  • The look on Bills receiver David Nelson’s face said it all in the locker room. I wouldn’t be shocked if Nelson is done for an extended period. Nelson was carted off in the fourth quarter. It was a tough way to go out for Buffalo’s second-leading receiver, who is the best slot option the team has. This probably means rookie receiver T.J. Graham has to step up in Nelson’s place. Graham was inactive Sunday against the Jets.
  • Bills head coach Chan Gailey said starting running Fred Jackson’s knee injury wasn’t as serious as Nelson’s. But Jackson didn’t finish the game and his status is in doubt for a big Week 2 matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs (0-1). Jets safety LaRon Landry went low on Jackson, whose leg got caught in the turf. Jackson walked on the sideline after the game but didn’t return. Backup C.J. Spiller looks more than ready for the increased responsibility. Spiller rushed for 169 yards and a touchdown in relief against a tough Jets defense.
  • There may be more good news for the New England Patriots' defense. After pounding young Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker in a season-opening win, Arizona Cardinals starting quarterback John Skelton also was sidelined in Week 1 with a possible high-ankle sprain. That type of injury can keep players out for about a month. But Skelton will most certainly miss next week’s game against the Patriots (1-0) at Gillette Stadium. That paves the way for enigmatic backup Kevin Kolb, who filled in decently on Sunday but has been a bust since signing a big contract with Arizona (1-0).
  • Finally, you have to wonder how much Miami Dolphins left tackle Jake Long's knee is bothering him. He was beat on several plays and looked unusually shaky at times Sunday against the Houston Texans. I’m not worried about Long’s play as much as the injuries piling up. Seventy percent of Long is still better than many left tackles. But it seems the past couple of years Long is playing hurt too often. It’s the second season in a row Long is starting the year banged up. It’s a long season and the Dolphins’ best player already is managing injuries. This is a contract year for Long, and Miami (0-1) has to decide whether it can make Long the highest-paid lineman in the league next season when he’s starting to develop the “injury-prone” label.
On paper, the New England Patriots have the easiest schedule in the NFL. But the league didn't do New England any favors by scheduling three of its first four games on the road.

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What will be New England's September record? (at Tennessee, vs. Arizona, at Baltimore and at Buffalo)

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New England will be road warriors in the month of September. Will this result in a slow start for the reigning AFC champs? New England will travel to play the Tennessee Titans, at home against the Arizona Cardinals, then back on the road for games against Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills.

The two games New England should particularly be concerned about are the back-to-back road games against Baltimore and Buffalo. The Patriots know how tough the Ravens are. New England barely squeezed out a 23-20 win in the AFC Championship Game over the Ravens this past January. The Ravens rarely lose at M&T Bank Stadium and will be seeking revenge. In addition, Buffalo upset New England last year at Ralph Wilson Stadium and split the season series. It's also an advantage for Buffalo that this game for New England comes immediately after a tough and brutal contest against the Ravens.

Many expect the Patriots to win at least 12 games this year and walk away with another AFC East title. But an early stumble by New England could make the division more competitive than expected.

Will it happen or will the Patriots take care of business?

Day 3 of free agency is nearly complete, and the Miami Dolphins haven't heard from quarterback Peyton Manning.

The future Hall of Famer completed his most recent visit Wednesday with the Tennessee Titans and is meticulously taking his time making a decision. Meanwhile, the Titans, Dolphins, Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals continue to wait on Manning.

This is a delicate and dangerous game Miami is playing. At what point should the quarterback-needy Dolphins cut the cord on the Manning dream?

Reports indicate Denver, Tennessee and Arizona have leapfrogged Miami in the Manning sweepstakes. ESPN's Adam Schefter even suggests it's now a two-team race between Denver and Tennessee. Yet the Dolphins continue to keep their quarterback plans on ice until Manning's decision is final.

Former Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn -- Miami's second choice -- will fly to Seattle on Thursday night to meet with the Seahawks. The Dolphins might be considered the favorite for Flynn. But you can never be sure when millions of dollars are being thrown around.

The Seahawks might have a great visit with Flynn, offer a big contract and convince Flynn to sign before he skips town. Under that scenario, the Dolphins could lose out on both quarterbacks, assuming Manning chooses another team.

Going after Manning was a great idea. The Dolphins had to take their shot at a quarterback who could instantly change the fortune of the franchise. But waiting too long for Manning is a mistake. Manning will do what's in his best interest, and that might not match with Miami's.

If talks heat up between Flynn and Seattle or another team, the Dolphins might want to narrow their focus in this quarterback derby or risk leaving empty-handed.

(Update: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Flynn's next visit will be with Miami after he visits the Seahawks. It appears the Dolphins are taking my advice.)
The Miami Dolphins are playing a high-stakes, cat-and-mouse game with the NFL's two biggest free-agent quarterbacks.

Miami wants Peyton Manning, clearly its Plan A. But the Dolphins don't want to sit idle, either. So they reportedly began negotiations with former Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn Tuesday night, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald.

We explained this scenario this morning in the AFC East blog. Miami is in the running for Manning and has no choice but to wait on his decision. But the Dolphins also don’t want to be held hostage.

By entering contract negotiations with Flynn, the Dolphins run the risk of turning off Manning. How committed to Manning could the Dolphins be if they’re already looking to sign another quarterback? The Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals, for example, are not chasing other quarterbacks.

The Dolphins also traded Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall Tuesday to the Chicago Bears for two third-round picks. It's unknown if that makes Miami more or less attractive for Manning. But the early reaction to the trade isn't good.

Manning is not expected to make his decision for at least a couple more days. He still has to meet with the Tennessee Titans on Wednesday.
Now comes the tricky part for the Miami Dolphins.

Miami wants free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning in the worst way and met with him for hours Monday evening. But Manning has meticulously taken his time and reportedly will drag his decision beyond 4 p.m. Tuesday, at which time free agency begins.

Should the Dolphins wait for Manning or pursue former Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn on Tuesday afternoon while the Manning situation is still pending? It's an interesting dilemma.

On one end, Miami still thinks it has a legit shot to land Manning, a future Hall of Famer. If word comes out the Dolphins are simultaneously chasing Flynn on Tuesday afternoon, that may sway Manning's thinking about Miami’s level of commitment.

The Denver Broncos have Tim Tebow and won't be chasing Flynn on Tuesday. Neither will the Arizona Cardinals, who have Kevin Kolb. Those teams will be waiting patiently on Manning, who has dictated the terms of this entire process. Manning may view the Dolphins' negotiating with Flynn as rushing his decision -- something Manning would not like.

On the other end, the Dolphins do not want to leave this offseason empty-handed and without a new starting quarterback. A number of interested teams will be jumping right in on Flynn. If the Dolphins wait a few days to join the party due to Manning's indecision, they could be too late for Flynn. Under this scenario, Manning's decision would basically hold the Dolphins hostage.

This is the type of high-stakes game you play when trying to land one of the biggest free agents in NFL history. Miami reportedly is not the favorite in the Manning sweepstakes. So it might be wise for the Dolphins to be one of the first teams to jump into the Flynn sweepstakes after 4 p.m. ET Tuesday.

Either way, Miami is taking a risk. If you were Dolphins management, what would you do?
The Miami Dolphins will finally get their meeting with free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning -- sort of. According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Manning will meet with the head coaches of the Dolphins and Tennessee Titans away from the facilities in the next few days before making his final decision.

Here is my take on what this means:
  • In my opinion, this sounds like a courtesy meeting from Manning. I don't think the quarterback is seriously considering the Dolphins at this point. It's no secret the Dolphins want Manning badly, and Manning is a really nice guy, and probably doesn't want to hurt people's feelings in the process. He already shut down several teams, including the New York Jets and Washington Redskins, who called his representatives. Manning taking the full tour in Denver and Arizona, and not in Miami, should say all the Dolphins need to know.
  • This also doesn't help the league-wide perception that Miami has dysfunctional leadership. Miami's power pair of owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland do not have the best reputation around the league for various reasons. The most recent public handling this past year of former head coach Tony Sparano, particularly, drew ire around the league. Jim Harbaugh and Jeff Fisher both turned down Ross and Ireland, and it appears Manning will be the third big name to do so in a year.
  • Finally, it's time for the Dolphins to resort to Plan B. The chances of Philbin, a rookie head coach, saying something magical to convince Manning to join Miami without even visiting the facilities are slim. The Dolphins appear all but out of the Manning sweepstakes. That means it's time for Miami to jump into the Flynn sweepstakes. Free agency starts in less than 24 hours. Miami must go back to the drawing board if it wants a new starting quarterback next season.

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