AFC West: Manning Sweepstakes

Video: Courtship of Peyton Manning

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
4:37
PM ET

John Elway sits down with Adam Schefter to discuss recruiting and landing Peyton Manning, the expectations facing Manning this season, and how difficult it was to trade Tim Tebow.

As the Denver Broncos’ brass flies to North Carolina to see Peyton Manning throw, their competition for him has lessened.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter just reported that the Miami Dolphins are officially out of the running for Manning. Miami was initially considered a front-runner for Manning, partly because he owns a home there. Schefter reported the Dolphins were told they are no longer in the mix.

The three known finalists for Manning are Denver, Tennessee and Arizona. But the Cardinals could bow out of the Manning race Friday, because they owe quarterback Kevin Kolb a major bonus Friday, and Manning does not appear close to making a decision.

The Broncos appear to be in the Manning chase for the long haul, as their workout with him Friday indicates. Schefter reports Denver is bringing a big crew to North Carolina to watch Manning throw, including leader John Elway, coach John Fox, key offensive coaches and its medical team.

The Denver Broncos are taking the next step in the Peyton Manning process.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting the Broncos brass is flying to North Carolina on Friday to meet with Manning and to watch him work out. Schefter said this is simply the next step in the process and it doesn't mean Denver is the favorite to land Manning.

But it is significant for two reasons -- Denver will get the opportunity to see Manning work out and to see if he is recovering from a neck injury that kept him out for the 2011 season and because Manning and the Broncos will see if they are comfortable with taking the next step with each other.

Schefter said other teams will likely work out Manning. The four finalists have been considered Denver, Tennessee, Miami and Arizona. The Dolphins and Cardinals may be falling out of the race. The Dolphins are pursuing Green Bay’s Matt Flynn and the Cardinals have to make a final decision on a big bonus for quarterback Kevin Kolb on Friday. Because the Manning process is ongoing, the Cardinals have to make a fast decision.

Thus, Denver and Tennessee appear to be the teams in for the long haul for Manning. Schefter said another team can enter the fray, but that appears to be a long shot.

For now, the Broncos are preparing for their second meeting with Manning and the team has to feel good about its place in this chase.
The Denver Broncos are starting to move in free agency as their wait for Peyton Manning extends. NFL Network is reporting that Denver is going to visit with Baltimore linebacker Jameel McClain.

Coming from a 3-4 defense in Baltimore, he would likely play middle linebacker in Denver’s 4-3 set, solidifying the linebacker corps. Denver signed Cleveland safety Mike Adams on Thursday and is reportedly interesting in Atlanta pass-rusher John Abraham. Getting McClain and Abraham would significantly raise the talent level on an improving defense.

In other AFC West news:

San Diego running back Mike Tolbert left his visit with the Chiefs. He is still talking to Kansas City and may take other trips. The Chargers are still interested in re-signing him. The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that the Chargers want a fast answer from Tolbert; if not, they could move on to Kansas City running back Jackie Battle. I heard Battle’s name connected to San Diego in the afternoon. Battle is a decent backup; Tolbert is a tremendous backup.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting that Peyton Manning’s long-awaited decision is not imminent. So let’s all continue to hurry up and wait.

The Denver Post is reporting that middle linebacker Joe Mays, whom McClain would replace, is visiting the Saints and the Colts. Denver doesn’t have much interest in re-signing Mays.

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that Houston guard Mike Brisiel will next visit the Redskins if he can’t come to an accord in Oakland. He has ties to the Raiders coaching staff, which will help.

Yes, the Chargers have added receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal this week, but San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers doesn’t want anyone to forget about second-year player Vincent Brown.
While ESPN’s Chris Mortensen has reported that Peyton Manning has not eliminated any of the four teams he has visited with, ESPN’s Adam Schefter said on ‘SportsCenter’ on Thursday morning that the sense is the finalists might be Denver and Tennessee.

Manning has also visited Arizona and Miami. Before Tennessee entered the picture (Manning played at the University of Tennessee, and is a legend in the state), the Broncos and the Cardinals were considered the favorites to land Manning in most circles. So, perhaps the Broncos should feel good that Schefter is reporting they are hanging in the race.

ESPN analyst Bill Polian (who brought Manning to Indianapolis, and who remains close with Manning) said on ‘SportsCenter’ that football-wise, the Broncos and Titans are “almost a dead heat” in his opinion. Polian said perhaps Tennessee’s “home-field advantage” will be the deciding factor for Manning.

Polian also said the decision by Manning might take awhile. The Broncos remain committed to staying in this race, but if Manning doesn’t choose them, they could be in a bad spot. Denver entered free agency with $38 million in cap room, but hasn’t done anything yet, because Manning would change their free-agency plan.
As the Denver Broncos wait to hear from Peyton Manning, the Tennessee Titans have emerged as a strong competitor for the superstar quarterback.

Manning, who is also considering the Cardinals and Dolphins, is meeting with the Titans’ brass and then he is expected to make a decision on his future. There has been recent chatter that Manning may be swayed to stay in the AFC South and play for the Titans. Wednesday, Manning’s former boss didn’t do anything to end that talk.

Former Indianapolis general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian said on "SportsCenter" that he thinks the Titans are the most logical landing spot for Manning. Polian cited that Manning and his wife, Ashley, have ties to the state. Manning was a legendary quarterback at the University of Tennessee.

So, location could be a big stumbling block for John Elway. This doesn’t mean Manning won’t be a Bronco, but the Titans may have an emotional edge. Whatever happens, I’m sure the Broncos want a resolution so they can proceed with the rest of their free-agency plan, regardless of the outcome of the Manning sweepstakes.

In other AFC West news:

ESPN Boston is reporting key San Diego backup safety Steve Gregory will visit New England on Wednesday. If Gregory gets a starting job, he will likely leave San Diego. Denver has also been linked to Gregory. The Chargers will likely look for help at safety in the draft.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. believes the Chargers’ re-signing of center Nick Hardwick is a top under-the-radar signing.

Robert Meacham’s deal with the Chargers includes $100,000 in bonuses if he makes the Pro Bowl for each of the next two seasons.

The word is Oakland, Washington and New Orleans may be the early favorites to land Matt Leinart as a backup quarterback. Oakland’s connection is Leinart played for new Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Houston. The Raiders are looking for a new backup.
Don’t be surprised if the Denver Broncos refrain from adding pricey free agents until they get an answer on where Peyton Manning will sign.

I have gotten the sense that Denver will wait on Manning before making its major decisions. It makes sense, because Denver’s needs and salary-cap availability will depend on what Manning does. If Manning does sign with Denver, several of Manning’s former teammates in Indianapolis, including tight end Dallas Clark, receivers Reggie Wayne, Anthony Gonzalez and Pierre Garcon and center Jeff Saturday could be in play, as could others who might fit well with Manning.

This approach, of course, would be a calculated risk for Denver. If Manning goes elsewhere, the Broncos will have to scramble with their non-Manning plan. Because free agency starts Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET, Denver could lose out on some targets if the Manning decision takes too long.

But Denver wants Manning so badly — and might like its odds of landing him enough to take that chance.

In other AFC West news:

A frank Mike Tolbert discusses why he likely won’t be signing with the Jets in free agency. The running back’s agent, Joel Turner, said Monday that he and the Chargers are working to try get a deal done with Tolbert before free agency begins. However, there are no guarantees Tolbert will be signed by then.

The Houston Chronicle is reporting that the Texans will not be interested in Manning.

The Texans did cut tackle Eric Winston, who could be among the players both the Chiefs and Chargers look at.

Add Denver to the list of teams that might show interest in San Diego free-agent safety Steve Gregory.

There have been recent indications the Chargers might not be players for Miami defensive tackle Paul Soliai. However, the Chiefs and Broncos may show interest.
The fact that Peyton Manning is going to visit with representatives from Miami and Tennessee probably doesn’t affect Denver’s chances of signing the quarterback. But it does affect the timeline.

ESPN’s Chris Mortensen is reporting Manning will meet with coaches from the Dolphins and Titans. However, the meetings aren’t expected to be full-blown visits. Manning had extensive facility visits with the Broncos and Cardinals during the weekend. According to Mortensen and Adam Schefter, the Broncos and Cardinals remain favorites to land Manning.

However, because Mortensen is reporting that Manning won’t talk to Titans officials until after Wednesday, Manning likely won’t make a final decision until Thursday at the earliest. Free agency starts Tuesday at 4 pm ET. The Broncos’ plan in free agency will very likely be affected by whether they sign Manning or not. But Denver is just going to have to deal with the timeline change, and the Denver Post reports the Broncos are among the teams to have preliminary talks with Manning’s agent.

Ultimately, the Broncos want Manning badly and they are willing to wait to get him.
According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter, the Kansas City Chiefs are likely out of the running for Peyton Manning.

Despite the team’s public announcement that it was interested in Manning, it appears nothing has developed. Where does that leave the Chiefs' quarterback situation heading into 2012?

Right where it was prior to Manning becoming a free agent: It is Matt Cassel’s job until further notice.

Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said at the combine that the starting quarterback job wasn’t necessarily open. It is Cassel’s job, but there will be competition.

Like any team looking at Manning, the Chiefs were interested in a rare opportunity to pursue a superstar. That is no knock on Cassel. The reality is, 32 teams would prefer Manning to Cassel. That’s just the way it is.

Still, with Manning apparently out of the picture, expect the Chiefs to continue to look at quarterbacks this offseason, albeit on a lesser scale. Candidates include Kyle Orton, Jason Campbell and Chad Henne. If the Chiefs are looking for a pure backup for Cassel, Brady Quinn could be an option.

I could also see the Chiefs looking at Branden Weeden or Kirk Cousins if they are available when the Chiefs pick in the second round.

The Chiefs will add a quarterback this offseason. The only question is whether Cassel will be truly pushed or not. Of course, had the Manning pursuit worked out, Cassel might have been pushed right out of Kansas City.
The Peyton Manning sweepstakes may be winding down, and two things are becoming apparent.

The Denver Broncos have a real chance to change the landscape of their organization, and the Kansas City Chiefs better make a push for Manning if they want him. ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that Denver and Arizona appear to be the favorites to sign Manning.

Manning
Tebow
They reported that other teams can get still get in the picture, but they quoted one source as saying his “gut is that Manning is leaning toward Denver." The report suggests Denver may have an advantage because Manning has a relationship with Denver football czar John Elway and head coach John Fox. Manning visited Denver on Friday and then went to Arizona.

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt has said the team is interested in Manning, but there haven’t been any reports that progress is being made on that front.

There is a chance Manning could make his decision in the next couple of days. The Broncos, I think, would like to see a decision made prior to 4 p.m. ET Tuesday when free agency begins. The Broncos’ needs and approach to free agency would be different if Manning is a Bronco.

While the Broncos could very well look to trade Tim Tebow if Manning is signed, Tebow could still be in Denver’s plans if the rare opportunity to sign Manning fails. Thus, Denver’s needs on offense will be completely different depending on who is the quarterback.

If Manning is signed, watch for Denver to gear up the passing game and go after receivers (Reggie Wayne, anyone?) and another tight end (Dallas Clark, anyone?). Basically do what it takes to try to win within the two- or three-year window that Manning, who turns 36 this month, would be in Denver.

For example, I think San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson -- who is from Colorado -- could suddenly be an option in Denver if Manning is signed. If Tebow is the quarterback, Jackson would not be an option. If Tebow is the quarterback, Denver will look to upgrade the running game much more than the passing game.

We will find out soon enough which direction Denver is going, but it appears it has a strong chance of moving forward with one of the best quarterbacks ever to play.
Peyton Manning's visit to Denver is complete, but the pursuit of Manning continues. He is expected to head to Arizona. The Chiefs have also expressed interest, though Miami, where Manning owns a home, is considered the favorite to land the mega-star quarterback in some league circles.

"There is absolutely no preferred choice at this time,” a source told ESPN. “This is typical [Manning] doing his own research because it's a first-time and only-time process from a free-agent vantage point. Physically seeing facilities and the geography of cities that he is not acquainted with is part of his own research."

The Broncos and Chiefs have less competition for Manning after Friday night.

The blockbuster trade between St. Louis and Washington -- the Redskins will send three No. 1 picks and a 2012 second-round pick to the Rams for the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft -- means the Redskins are all but out of the Manning chase.

The Jets have extended the contract of quarterback Mark Sanchez, thus they too are no longer in the hunt for Manning.

I think the fact that the Redskins won the right to draft whichever quarterback the Colts do not at No. 1 may make Denver push for Manning even harder. The Broncos liked Baylor's Robert Griffin III and they could have been tempted to make a move for him. (They could never have beaten Washington’s offer, though).

Meanwhile, does the Redskins’ move mean they will make a huge push for San Diego free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson on Tuesday?
Tim Tebow should not feel great about Friday’s turn of events in Denver.

Tebow
The climate in the Rocky Mountains has instantly changed from Tebow Time to Manning Madness. Tebow captured fans' imagination in Colorado and far beyond, but that all changed in Denver on Friday when television helicopters chased Peyton Manning’s SUV ride to the Broncos’ facility.

Less than two months after Denver executive John Elway and coach John Fox said Tebow will go to training camp as the Broncos’ starting quarterback, the team is putting the full recruitment press on Manning. Some of Tebow’s teammates – players who gave him a standing ovation after a pre-game speech prior to Denver's playoff loss at New England – were at the Broncos facility, swooning over Manning on Friday.

What should Tebow do about it?

Deal with it.

Opportunities to try to sign a player of Manning’s caliber are rare. Any team that is unsure of its future at quarterback needs to investigate signing Manning. That’s what Denver is doing.

The mere fact that Denver is trying to sign Manning doesn’t mean Tebow is out of the team's plans. Of course, if Manning chooses to sign with Denver, Tebow’s time will, at least, be postponed. The Broncos would either try to trade Tebow (Jacksonville, anyone?) or let him season behind Manning and perhaps be used in certain packages. But as long as Manning is healthy, there would be no Tebow-Kyle Orton-like controversy. The Broncos would be Manning’s team.

If Manning doesn’t sign with Denver, the Broncos will likely give Tebow a chance to prove himself in 2012. Sure, it could be awkward and yes, perhaps Tebow’s feelings would be hurt. But that’s the way the NFL works.
The Denver Broncos have gotten a jump on the Peyton Manning chase.

Television news helicopters followed Manning’s ride from a Denver-area airport to the Broncos facility, where Manning is meeting with team officials. It won’t be his last visit. ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Manning will visit the Cardinals; Kansas City owner Clark Hunt has said the Chiefs have interest in Manning as well.

Expect Manning to make his decision within the next several days. The veteran quarterback will weigh several options before making his decision. Let's look at how the Broncos and the Chiefs stack up in several areas:

Finances

Denver: It has already been reported the Broncos are willing to spend whatever it takes to get Manning. Denver owner Pat Bowlen has seen Manning beat his team’s brains in for years. He’d happily pay to get Manning on his side.

Kansas City: The Chiefs are in great salary-cap shape. They can easily hang with any other team’s offer for Manning.

Supporting offensive cast

Denver: The Broncos have strong offensive linemen, a good running game and some solid receivers. There is room to get better and I’m sure the Broncos would promise Manning improvements, even allow him to make suggestions.

Kansas City: The Chiefs have a better supporting cast in the passing game than Denver. Manning would likely be thrilled to throw to receivers Dwayne Bowe, Jon Baldwin and Steve Breaston and tight end Tony Moeaki. The Chiefs can run the ball, too. And Manning would reunite with former Colts teammate guard Ryan Lilja.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
AP Photo/Kiichiro SatoThe Chiefs can offer Peyton Manning a solid receiving corps; the Broncos, meanwhile, have Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway running the show.
Defense

Denver: The Broncos have an improved defense and are expected to try to get better. If the six-game suspension of linebacker D.J. Williams holds up, however, it will weaken the group.

Kansas City: Romeo Crennel’s defense was fabulous at the end of last season and it has a chance to be a stellar group with a few additions. Manning would have to be impressed by this group.

Coaching staff

Denver: Denver head coach John Fox loves veteran quarterbacks and is a noted players' coach. He and Manning would be a natural fit. Offensively, the Broncos showed last season that they are more than willing to adjust their system to their quarterback. Manning would like this group.

Kansas City: Crennel runs a New England-like ship. No opponent knows how important coaching was to New England’s success better than Manning. I think Crennel and his staff would work well with Manning.

Intangibles

Denver: The Broncos have something no other competitor for Manning has: a Hall of Fame quarterback running the show. John Elway would give Manning what he wanted, and he understands what it is like to be in Manning’s shoes as few others do.

Kansas City: The Chiefs don’t have a Hall of Famer running the show, but Hall of Famer Len Dawson is never too far off.

Room for friends

Denver: The Broncos could be open to signing several of Manning’s former Colts teammates, including center Jeff Saturday, receiver Reggie Wayne and tight end Dallas Clark. That would appeal to Manning.

Kansas City: The Chiefs are pretty set at receiver and tight end. I could see them making room for Saturday, however.

Ability to win now

Denver: The Broncos went from being 4-12 in 2010 to going 8-8 and winning a playoff game in 2011. With Manning and a few more pieces, the Broncos would be a threat to make a deep playoff run.

Kansas City: The Chiefs went 7-9 in 2011 despite several injuries. Adding Manning could make the Chiefs a dark-horse Super Bowl choice.

Conclusion: Both teams have strong selling points to Manning and both have the means to get it done. It will come down to a comfort level for Manning, who will also consider other teams. But there’s no doubt that both the Broncos and Chiefs will be in this chase for the long haul.
The Denver Broncos may be striking first in the AFC West battle for Peyton Manning, but the Kansas City Chiefs are not lying down simply because Manning is visiting Denver tonight.

In an interview with the NBC Sports Network, Kansas City owner Clark Hunt said the Chiefs are interested in pursuing Manning.

“He’s one of the greatest players in the history of the league,” Hunt said in the interview. “He’s also an incredible person. We feel really good about the team we have in Kansas City going into the 2012 season, but we’ll look for any opportunity to improve and, of course, that includes Peyton Manning.”

Because the Broncos are moving fast, expect the Chiefs to try to move fast on getting a visit setup up with Manning as well.

In a video, ESPN’s Adam Schefter says he believes the Chiefs are viable contenders for Manning. If the Chiefs do land Manning, Schefter thinks current quarterback Matt Cassel would either be traded or he will have to restructure his contract to stay as Manning’s backup.

Folks, we got ourselves a legitimate intra-division battle for one of the best players in NFL history.
It seems like the Denver Broncos' plane definitely did not go to Miami for a Cuban sandwich.

The Denver Post is reporting Manning will be visiting with the Broncos on Friday night. This is the first known visit for Manning. It shows just how much the Broncos want him.

I was told by several people Thursday and Friday morning that Denver’s pursuit of Manning was not just a curious look-see. The Broncos are bent on getting Manning. They called his agents as soon as he was released by the Colts on Wednesday and the move to fly him to Denver shows the Broncos want to get a deal done ASAP.

It is likely that Manning will visit other teams, but the Broncos have to feel good about getting their hands on him now.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported that Manning would prefer to stay in the AFC. Among the other AFC teams interested in Manning are the Chiefs, Dolphins and Jets. The Broncos are banking on their improved roster, the presence of legendary quarterback John Elway and the player-friendly approach of coach John Fox being selling points to Manning.

What does this all mean for Tim Tebow in Denver?

If Manning ends up a Bronco, Tebow will either be sent away in a trade or be kept to learn under Manning and perhaps play in some special packages. If Manning goes elsewhere, I think the Broncos continue to stick with Tebow as their quarterback heading into training camp.

The Broncos know opportunities to get a player of Manning’s caliber are rare. That’s why they are striking so early in this process.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

AFC WEST SCOREBOARD