They were a long shot from the outset, and now it appears the New York Jets have faded away in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.
The free-agent quarterback began to take recruiting trips Friday, with his first stop in Denver to meet with the Broncos, according to reports. Manning also is expected to visit with the Arizona Cardinals, ESPN reported, with a possible stop at the Kansas City Chiefs.
Publicly, the Manning camp hasn't provided a list of finalists, but the Cards, Broncos and Miami Dolphins are thought to be the top three, according to an official from one of the three teams.
The Jets? If they're still in the hunt, they're taking a stealth approach.
"There's been no mention of the Jets anywhere," the official said. "I think they're out."
The Jets declined to comment. They haven't spoken publicly about Manning since he was released Wednesday by the Indianapolis Colts.
With Manning seemingly out of the picture, the Jets will take a more realistic approach to upgrading the quarterback position. They're expected to pursue former Dolphins starter Chad Henne as soon as the free-agent bell rings Tuesday at 4 p.m.
Ostensibly, the Jets see Henne as a backup to Mark Sanchez, a three-year starter. Henne already knows the offense because he played under new coordinator Tony Sparano in Miami.
Throughout the offseason, coach Rex Ryan has said repeatedly he expects Sanchez to be the starter, but he fueled the Manning speculation by refusing to rule out a potential run at the future Hall of Famer.
Sanchez hasn't commented -- he hasn't spoken with reporters since the end of the season -- but there's concern within the organization that his confidence and stature in the locker room could be damaged by the Manning flirtation.
The Jets were one of 12 teams to reach out to Manning's representatives, sources said. It was a "cursory" phone call to gauge Manning's interest in them, one source said. Evidently, there wasn't much.
Manning could always change his mind, but you'd think a person as meticulous as he is would at least want to meet with a team if he considered it a possible landing spot. The window is closing because teams are pushing Manning for a decision by Tuesday, the start of free agency. ESPN reported Thursday that Manning expected to have a new home within a week.
The Jets had a lot to overcome, including cold weather, a tight salary-cap situation and a dysfunctional locker room. Legendary Jets quarterback Joe Namath slammed his old team, calling it an undesirable location for a player of Manning's stature.
"The Jets have to get things together on their own turf before someone with his background would be interested in coming," Namath said Thursday.