Tuesday, March 6, 2012
NFC West and chasing Peyton Manning
By Mike Sando
NFC West suitors for the soon-to-be-released Peyton Manning can only hope the Miami Dolphins consider themselves favorites to sign him.
The Dolphins chased hard after Jim Harbaugh a year ago, media reports suggested, but Harbaugh went to the San Francisco 49ers. More recently, the Dolphins went after Jeff Fisher with great vigor, only to watch Fisher go to the St. Louis Rams.
The last time the Dolphins outbid an NFC West team for a high-profile player, they acquired Brandon Marshall from Denver when Seattle was also interested.
Manning, set to be released no later than Thursday, will surely draw widespread interest. I expect Seattle and Arizona to check into Manning's health and strongly consider pursuing him. We've discussed several potential scenarios already this offseason while anticipating Manning's expected release from Indianapolis. Nothing much has changed since then.
A few considerations for each NFC West team:
- Arizona Cardinals: The team has until March 17 to decide whether to pay a $7 million bonus to Kevin Kolb or allow him to reach free agency. John Skelton is under contract and will compete for the starting job if Kolb returns. Manning would be available to sign with any team once the Colts release him, even though free agency does not begin until March 13. The window between Manning's release and March 17 gives the Cardinals time to explore their options. They can offer Manning an indoor stadium, natural grass, arguably the NFL's best receiver in Larry Fitzgerald and an improving defense. Arizona won seven of its final eight games last season to finish 8-8. Manning would have to like his chances at improving upon that mark. Concerns about the Cardinals' offensive line have some merit, but Manning doesn't need much time. He gets rid of the ball quickly. The Colts never had great lines. As a bonus, Arizona hired Manning's former position coach, Frank Reich, to coach receivers. And if Manning needed assurances about the organization or coaching staff, he could always get a scouting report from Kurt Warner, who flourished in Arizona.
- Seattle Seahawks: The team has a strong base of talent on defense. The running game finished strong last season, with Marshawn Lynch leading the league over the final nine weeks. Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Doug Baldwin would give Manning weapons in the passing game. Miller was underutilized in the passing game last season. The team needed him in pass protection at times. Also, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson played hurt and held the ball too long. Manning would make fuller use of Miller and the other weapons. Seattle can also offer a talented left tackle if Russell Okung has better luck on the injury front. Seattle also has easily the most appealing facilities in the division. Like Arizona, Seattle can offer a low-key media atmosphere where Manning can focus on football, same as he did in Indy. Manning's neck injuries remain a concern, but Seattle can offer something on that front as well. Team physician Stan Herring serves on the NFL's Head, Neck and Spine Committee.
- San Francisco 49ers: All signs have pointed to the 49ers re-signing Alex Smith and grooming Colin Kaepernick for the future. As long as Smith remains unsigned, however, there's at least a chance the team could go in another direction. That chance appears slim at this point, however.
- St. Louis Rams: The Rams have said they're going to build around Sam Bradford. Manning is not an option for them.
OK, NFC West community. What say you?