- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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A month ago, former Jets great Curtis Martin said his old team should pursue Peyton Manning if he became available. Current running back LaDainian Tomlinson, who will join Martin in the Hall of Fame one day, feels the same way. And he believes Manning would thrive with the Jets.
"I do know one thing: This is a good fit for him," Tomlinson told the NFL Network Wednesday. "The Jets already have a very good offensive line, a good receiving corps – obviously headed by Santonio Holmes, Dustin Keller at tight end. This is a team that, offensively, they run the ball really well. This is a team that if they get Peyton Manning, that division it could be scary."
The Jets are interested in Manning, who was released Wednesday by the Colts, and they will explore the possibility of signing him, sources said. They want to gauge Manning's interest in them, his contract demands and the health of his surgically repaired neck.
If there's mutual interest -- and that's a big if -- the Jets will strongly consider an aggressive play for Manning, sources said. But there are potential issues (salary-cap restrictions, cold weather, etc.) that could put the Jets at a disadvantage in the Peyton Sweepstakes, and there's still a lot of support for Mark Sanchez in the organization.
One league source suggested the Jets' objective is to keep Manning away from the Dolphins and out of the division.
Tomlinson speculated that Manning would be a popular move among Jets players.
"The players want to win – that’s the first thing," he said. "As players, we always want the guy that is going to give us the best opportunity to win. With Peyton Manning, his track record says it all. He’s won a Super Bowl, been to two, a four-time MVP. His resume tells you right now that this guy is going to be able to come in and we’re going to win. When you’re up against that as players, it’s hard to not say you want a guy like Peyton Manning. He’s one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time."
Tomlinson said he doesn't think Sanchez would handle it well, but that probably would be moot because he'd be gone. With Sanchez counting $14.3 million on the cap, including $8.5 million in non-guaranteed base salary, there's virtually no way they could keep both quarterbacks.
"I think he would probably go in and maybe ask to be released," he said, "because here is Mark Sanchez’s gripe: ‘I took you guys to two straight AFC Championship Games; yeah I didn’t get it done last year, but my first and second year I took you to two AFC Championship Games. How can you turn around and just bring in another quarterback right now?’ Rightfully so, he would be a little mad."