AFC East: ManningWatch

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.
Get the helicopter warmed up, Miami Dolphins.

The moment has arrived. It's time for the Dolphins' organization to make their best pitch to soon-to-be free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning.

ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Indianapolis Colts will release Manning and hold a news conference on Wednesday. The deadline to pay Manning a $28 million roster bonus is Thursday, and there was zero chance the Colts would fork over that kind of money for a quarterback who missed the entire 2011 season.

But that won't stop the Dolphins and several other teams for knocking down Manning's door any day now. Miami is projected as one of the favorites. Other teams such as the Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins and New York Jets also are rumored to have interest.

The Dolphins and owner Stephen Ross want to make a splash this offseason. They tried everything from helicopter rides to offering big money to head coach Jeff Fisher, who spurned Miami to join the St. Louis Rams. Ross and Co. will try to put their best foot forward again with Manning.

The timing is perfect for Miami. Free agency doesn't start until next Tuesday, which gives the Dolphins time to gauge whether Manning is legitimately interested in coming to Miami. We listed all the reasons why the Dolphins are a great fit here. But if it doesn't work out, Miami still has enough time to transition to Plan B and go after former Green Bay Packers quarterback Matt Flynn in free agency.

Manning, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, is one of the biggest names ever to reach free agency. Business is about to pick up.
With free agency approaching, the Miami Dolphins are getting everything lined up to make their best pitch for potential free-agent quarterback Peyton Manning and unrestricted free agent Matt Flynn. Manning is expected to be released by March 8 before a $28 million bonus is due from the Indianapolis Colts. Flynn is the backup to Green Bay Packers Pro Bowl quarterback Aaron Rodgers and is looking for a starting job.

While it's pretty clear the Dolphins will start top shelf with Manning, a Super Bowl champion and future Hall of Famer, Flynn is expected to be Miami's Plan B if Manning doesn't sign or his health is too big of a question.

But the AFC East blog has been getting emails and tweets from many Dolphins fans who think Flynn should be Plan A over Manning. Here is the case for Flynn:
  • Flynn, 26, is the younger, healthier quarterback. Manning turns 36 on March 24. The best-case scenario is that Manning has two or three good years left in him. But even that's not a guarantee. Flynn has the potential to be your starting quarterback for the next six or seven years.
  • The West Coast offense is the system Flynn is familiar with, not Manning. Flynn spent his first four seasons in Green Bay learning the West Coast offense under new Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin. The system and the terminology will all be the same for Flynn, which makes for an easier learning curve. A case certainly can be made that Manning is good enough to play in any offense. But he will command some say in the system and force Miami's coaches to adjust. The Dolphins don't have to worry about that with Flynn.
  • Flynn should be more affordable. Although Manning's contract will have plenty of incentives, he deserves to be paid like an elite quarterback if he stays healthy. If Manning's neck is not an issue in 2012, he will be the more expensive option.

Those are the main points from Flynn supporters. They're valid, but I still say a free agent like Manning is so rare that Miami has to chase him first. A healthy Manning makes Miami an instant contender. Flynn is still somewhat of an unknown.

The most important issue is the medical check. If Indianapolis releases Manning, which is the expectation, it will have something to do with Manning not being 100 percent. Miami, or any other team, would have to be confident Manning will be ready to go by September.

ManningWatch: Schefter picks Dolphins

February, 24, 2012
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ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter lists the Miami Dolphins as the favorites to land future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning. The Indianapolis Colts are expected to release Manning in March before his $28 million roster bonus is due.

In the video, Schefter addresses all 32 NFL teams and narrows it down to the Final Four with the best chance.

Also, here is my column this week agreeing with Schefter's assessment that Miami is the best fit for Manning.
The New York Jets are a long shot in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. But the team won't completely rule out the veteran quarterback and future Hall of Famer.

When asked about Manning Thursday at the NFL combine, Jets head coach Rex Ryan told reporters "we will look at all the possibilities." Ryan was pressed on the issue, and although he didn't say the Jets were interested in Manning, he didn't say they weren't interested, either.

My take: The Jets would love to have a healthy Manning but it's not going to happen. The Jets have too much money tied into veteran players and are committed to quarterback Mark Sanchez for at least one more season. Ryan said Thursday that he believes Sanchez can be a star. Ryan knows it's important to keep Sanchez's confidence high going into a huge fourth season for the quarterback and the organization.

The only quarterback move the Jets will make is to find a backup who can push and get the best out of Sanchez. That player is not Peyton Manning.

Why Miami is best for Peyton Manning

February, 23, 2012
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Manning BillboardAP Photo/Alan DiazOn 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.
Now it's getting serious.

After weeks of speculation that Peyton Manning could be a fit for the Miami Dolphins, there is now a website and billboard in South Florida to help in the recruiting effort.

ManningToMiami.com was launched on Wednesday, and a huge billboard is on Interstate-595 for all to see. Here is the picture of the billboard courtesy of the Palm Beach Post. It shows a graphic of what Manning could look like in a Dolphins' uniform.

The Indianapolis Colts are expected to part ways with Manning before his reported $28 million bonus is due in March. Manning had multiple neck surgeries which kept him sidelined for the 2011 season. But several teams, including the Dolphins, are expected to pursue Manning if/when he becomes available.

ManningWatch: Ron Jaworski picks Jets

February, 20, 2012
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ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski knows who he likes in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. "Jaws" told radio station 97.5 in Philadelphia that the New York Jets would be the best fit for the future Hall of Fame quarterback.

"I think it's best for Peyton to go and play on a team that can compete for a Super Bowl," Jaworski explained. "A team that might be a quarterback away from elevating that team to Super Bowl status, and I think that would be a win-win situation."

When asked to pick a team, Jaworski said, “The New York Jets. I love [Jets quarterback] Mark Sanchez, and there are 25 other quarterbacks in this league that I would take Peyton Manning over. There's a turf war in New York. The Giants just won the Super Bowl. The Jets are fighting for every inch of space they can get in the newspaper. How do you get that inch? How do you get the headlines? You sign Peyton Manning."

This sounds decent in theory, but Jaworski has overlooked several key factors.

For starters, New York currently has little cap room to make an acquisition like Manning. The Jets would have to cut a lot of veterans to make enough space to fit the perennial Pro Bowler on the roster. Second, the Jets have said publicly that Sanchez is their quarterback next season. If New York goes after Manning, that would look very disingenuous towards Sanchez.

Probably two-thirds of the league would like to have a healthy Peyton Manning at quarterback. But there's only a few teams -- the Dolphins, Cardinals, Redskins, Seahawks -- with a legitimate shot to pull it off.

The Jets are not one of those teams.

Morning take: Ryan on Peyton Manning

February, 16, 2012
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Here are the most interesting stories Thursday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: The Jets have been avoiding the Manning topic. They won't say they will pursue Manning, but they won't say they won't. Either way, I doubt the Jets would have a great chance.
Morning take: Kiper has the Patriots choosing Marshall outside linebacker Vinny Curry and defensive tackle Kendall Reyes of Connecticut. I would prefer New England to address the secondary at least once in the first round.
Morning take: This pick improved from a sixth-rounder based on Lynch's production. Every bit in the draft helps.
Morning take: Miami doesn't really need help at running back, but depth at this position is always needed. Messam will join a talented group that includes Reggie Bush and Daniel Thomas.

ManningWatch: Is weather a factor?

February, 14, 2012
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There is plenty of speculation on the upcoming decision Peyton Manning has to make when he is most likely released by the Indianapolis Colts. But one aspect not often discussed is if weather will play any factor in Manning's decision.

Although it's early, here are some of the teams rumored to be interested in Manning: Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Washington Redskins, Seattle Seahawks, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers. Of these teams, Miami and Arizona hold the weather advantage.

The Cardinals probably have the biggest advantage. Manning played in a dome his entire pro career in Indianapolis, and Arizona also has a dome. A Manning-led offense relies on passing 30-40 times a game, and it's much easier to do that under a roof.

Sun Life Stadium -- home of the Dolphins -- is warm year-round. The Dolphins play outdoors, so there is the threat of rain. But besides that, Manning would have no issues throwing the football all season long in Miami.

Manning would have to deal with the elements, including snow and heavy winds, playing in New York and Washington. Seattle and San Francisco are not bad climates. But it rains heavily and the 49ers' field, in particular, can be a mud pit late in the year. That slows the offense and helps the defense.

In the end, throwing with good weather conditions won't be the biggest determining factor for Manning. But if it weighs in his mind at all -- big or small -- Arizona and Miami have the edge.
MIAMI -- I know from personal experience that Miami has great selling points. There's great weather, sandy beaches and unlimited entertainment.

That was more than enough to convince your AFC East blogger to jettison out of Cleveland last year. But that alone won't be enough to snag future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning from Indianapolis this upcoming season.

The Dolphins need football-related selling points. They need to convince Manning why Miami is the best place for him, as opposed to New York, Arizona, Seattle, Washington or San Francisco.

That is why the Dolphins would be wise to ask Dan Marino to play a chief role in the recruiting. Manning is a football historian, particularly when it comes to quarterbacks. He grew up watching Marino and has tremendous respect for one of the greatest quarterbacks ever.

Marino can relate to Manning in ways Dolphins owner Stephen Ross and general manager Jeff Ireland cannot. Ross can tell Manning how much money he could make in Miami. Ireland can boast about the talent Manning would have around him. But recently the pair tried that approach with St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher and it failed.

Marino is the only person with Dolphins ties who has a firm grasp on what makes Manning tick. Marino knows what Manning is thinking at this stage of his career. At one point, Marino was Manning -- an aging, future Hall of Famer chasing a championship late in his career. Marino never reached that goal. Manning is trying to do it for a second time.

If Manning joined the Dolphins this offseason, he would be the greatest quarterback in Miami since Marino. That alone is enough for the Dolphins to try to use Marino as a resource in pursuing Manning.

Morning take: Pennington on Peyton

February, 10, 2012
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Here are the most interesting stories Friday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: Pennington's career is all but officially over after multiple shoulder surgeries. Manning has a neck injury, which is more unpredictable. But Manning also is a much better quarterback, making it worth the risk.
Morning take: This is pretty funny. This person must have been a huge Giants fan since 2012.
Morning take: Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady and Vince Wilfork are among the standouts. But click the link to see which New England players didn't make the grade.
Morning take: If there was a year for Reed to get in, this was it. The 2012 class is not star-studded. It will get tougher for Reed next year and in subsequent years as bigger names come down the pike.

ManningWatch: Best landing spot?

February, 9, 2012
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The Indianapolis Colts are expected to release quarterback Peyton Manning before his $28 million roster bonus is due in March. That means teams are lining up for his services in free agency.

But which team provides the best landing spot for Manning? If healthy, the future Hall of Famer will make any team a playoff contender.

If Manning moves to the AFC East, there are two teams in need of a franchise quarterback. The Miami Dolphins want to upgrade from Matt Moore and have made it no secret they'd love to add Manning. The New York Jets say third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez is their starter. But there are reports that some in the organization want Manning instead. Both AFC East teams have solid defenses that would support Manning.

It seems nearly the entire NFC West could be in the Manning sweepstakes. Would Manning be a great fit there? There’s been a lot of chatter, with the Arizona Cardinals making a pitch. Kevin Kolb is a bust, and receiver Larry Fitzgerald hasn't had a good quarterback since Kurt Warner. The San Francisco 49ers, with their stout defense and running game, would be a Super Bowl favorite by adding Manning. The Seattle Seahawks also could have interest, but we ran out of teams we could list.

Finally, what about the Washington Redskins? Owner Daniel Snyder always is looking for the next big thing. The Redskins have been a mess for a long time. Even veteran coach Mike Shanahan hasn't been able to clean it up. Would Manning be the answer in Washington?

Using our SportsNation poll, vote on which team provides the best landing spot for Manning. You can also share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Morning take: Peyton Manning odds

February, 8, 2012
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Here are the most interesting stories Wednesday morning in the AFC East: Morning take: The odds are probably better than any other division, considering that two teams might have interest. The Miami Dolphins and New York Jets could both use a healthy Manning in their offenses to take their teams to the next level.
Morning take: It's always hard to predict these things. New England should be in the running next season, and that's all a team can ask for. But so much has to go right to make it all the way to the Super Bowl.
Morning take: Chandler is an underrated free agent who doesn't put up big numbers but is a solid player. I'm interested to see what kind of value he commands on the open market.
Morning take: Turner is most famous for replacing Santonio Holmes in the fourth quarter of the regular-season finale. He only had eight receptions but the Jets seem to like his potential.
INDIANAPOLIS -- If Peyton Manning becomes a free agent in March, which is the expectation, there will be a bevy of teams interested in his services -- assuming he's healthy. But Manning's free agency will ultimately come down to the short list of teams he's most interested in.

A source tells Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel that the Dolphins are one of those teams. Manning reportedly owns property in Miami and his family wouldn't mind living in that area. That would make for an easy transition.

It also doesn't hurt that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross has deep pockets and wants to make a splash. Money won't be an issue. Miami has made it no secret that the team is looking to upgrade at quarterback.

There are several reasons Miami makes sense for Manning. If healthy, he would instantly make Miami a contender. The team already has a solid defense, a star left tackle (Jake Long) to protect him and solid weapons at receiver, such as Pro Bowler Brandon Marshall. The New York Jets might also be in play.

Manning versus Tom Brady twice a year in the AFC East? What a tantalizing thought.

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