NFL Nation: Manning Sweepstakes

Video: Courtship of Peyton Manning

March, 27, 2012
3/27/12
4:36
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.
Peter King has the play-by-play from Peyton Manning's wild tour through free agency.

I'll mix in some color commentary for portions reaching into the NFC West.

Manning
King notes that the teams Manning considered the strongest featured former NFL players as point men. That included John Elway in Denver, Mike Munchak in Tennessee, Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco, and Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona.

Wait, Manning didn't know Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was an all-conference safety at University of the Pacific? He didn't know Seahawks GM John Schneider played a year at University of St. Thomas? Ha. Ha.

King says Manning was thrown off when Carroll and Schneider flew to Denver "unannounced" for a shot at meeting before Manning left for Arizona.

"Peyton Manning does not like surprises," King writes. "He said no thanks. Carroll flew home."

The decade Carroll spent away from the NFL made him even more of a Manning outsider. Neither was there sufficient connection between Seattle and Manning's former teammate, Brandon Stokley, for that relationship to work for Seattle. Stokley played for Carroll in 2010, but King pointed to Stokely's connections to Manning and Denver as helping make Manning more comfortable with the Broncos.

And so Manning was off to Arizona for a meeting with the Cardinals. What happened there? What did Manning think of Arizona? How serious was he about the Cardinals? Those questions remain unanswered.

Within a couple days, Harbaugh and 49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman were scouting a Manning workout in North Carolina.

"First they watched from a car by the side of the field, then, to get a better view, they came onto the field, hoodies pulled over their heads so as not to be recognized by some nosy iPhoner," King writes.

The 49ers' interest in Manning had not yet become known publicly. Still, the drama and secrecy seems silly. Manning and Stokley took similar precautions while throwing together in Denver.

Manning's tour was all about Manning and what made him comfortable. As Carroll found out, if you had to ask what made Manning comfortable, you didn't have a chance.

So, 89-year-old Bud Adams was bold in going for Peyton Manning.

He said he’d be disappointed if his executives were unable to land the quarterback.

What now?

I can’t imagine team president Mike Reinfeldt or general manager Ruston Webster, both recently promoted, will lose any standing with their boss here, even though Adams can be unreasonable on such things.

If anything, they actually should get a little leeway.

The Titans missed out on other free agents because they prioritized Manning, and they prioritized Manning at the instruction of Adams.

So it’s not completely Reinfeldt's or Webster's fault the Titans couldn’t land defensive end John Abraham, center Chris Myers or center Scott Wells.

Reinfeldt and Webster appear to have handled a meddling boss as best they could. From Adams:
“I want to thank the whole organization for their efforts in trying to sign Peyton and also to Peyton for the time he put into the process. Peyton called me this morning to inform me of his decision and obviously I am disappointed, because I thought we would be a perfect fit.

“Now that we move forward, I want our fans to know that our expectations haven’t changed -- winning a championship is still the goal. I like our quarterback situation moving forward and we will continue to build the team through free agency and the draft with that goal in mind.

“I also want to commend Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. They were thrown into a very difficult situation. Matt was very good for us last year; and at some point, we expect Jake to be our future franchise quarterback.”

The Titans have former Oakland linebacker Kamerion Wimbley in for a visit today, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

If the Titans are able to come out of free agency with Steve Hutchinson (already signed) and Wimbley, that’s not a terrible haul.
Peyton Manning never came close to joining the AFC North, but the report that he will be the next quarterback for the Denver Broncos does affect the division.

Every AFC North team would have a 2012 matchup against Manning, who is a combined 20-3 in the regular season against the division. The Bengals and Ravens both play host to the Bengals in 2012, and the Steelers and Browns both visit Denver in the upcoming season.

A look at how each of the division teams have fared against Manning over the years:

BENGALS: Cincinnati is 0-7 against Manning, who has thrown 17 touchdowns and three interceptions against the Bengals. His career rating against the Bengals is 107.0.

BROWNS: Cleveland has held Manning in check (two touchdowns and six interceptions), but the Browns are 0-5 against him. He has averaged 223.4 yards passing against Cleveland.

RAVENS: Baltimore has lost eight straight meetings to Manning, including two in the postseason. He has averaged 284.1 yards passing in eight career regular-season games against the Ravens, throwing 17 touchdowns and five interceptions.

STEELERS: Manning has only faced Pittsburgh three times, winning twice. The last meeting was November 2008, when Manning threw three touchdowns including the game-winner with 3:04 remaining in a 24-20 victory at Pittsburgh.

Well, they gave it a shot.

The Tennessee Titans lost out in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.

It would be great if the Titans could now return to the plan formulated before owner Bud Adams forced a detour into the quarterback market. But many pieces of the plan have evaporated.

They wouldn't have matched the kind of money the Buffalo Bills will pay defensive end Mario Williams. They watched John Abraham return to Atlanta. Centers Scott Wells and Chris Myers are off the market.

Now, they should be players for Kamerion Wimbley. They need to gauge what's going on with Dwight Freeney. They need to seek any sort of viable pass-rusher.

They've added guard Steve Hutchinson, who will help Chris Johnson just as much with Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker going forward as he could have helped Manning.

I'm not sure the Titans will find the pass-rusher they desperately need in remaining free agency or the draft, but they'll give it their best shot.

As for Hasselbeck, the presumptive opening day starter: He's a big boy. He understood that Bud Adams wanted Manning. He understands who Manning is. The team kept him in the loop.

It didn't make a change, so things revert. I don't think he was insulted, not in any way that would linger or be an issue going forward.

Yes, the owner and the city are now dealing with disappointment. But just a couple of weeks ago, Manning wasn't a real possibility for the franchise. Then hopes were higher than the Music City's Batman Building. Now he is a dream that flamed out.

Life goes on.

The Titans would have been better with him.

They may still be able to challenge for the division without him.
If the Tennessee Titans do not land Peyton Manning, will their failed pursuit of him have a lasting effect on the franchise?

The team had a plan for free agency before owner Bud Adams declared the team would chase Manning and try to land him at all costs.

[+] EnlargeBud Adams
AP Photo/Wade PayneTitans owner Bud Adams has made signing Peyton Manning the priority, but at what cost?
General manager Ruston Webster wouldn’t have been super active, but odds are he would have done more to this point than signing guard Steve Hutchinson.

The Titans were interested in Mario Williams, though I don’t believe they would have offered the sort of lottery winnings he will collect in Buffalo.

Perhaps, though, the Titans could have lured end John Abraham away from Atlanta. Perhaps they would have been able to land one of the centers they had in for visits -- Chris Myers, who re-signed with Houston, or Scott Wells, who went from Green Bay to St. Louis.

We don’t know where they stand with Kamerion Wimbley, the former Raiders pass-rusher. Maybe they chase him and land him whether they get Manning or not. But it will be hard to make him feel like a top priority while the quarterback question is unsettled.

This is likely to be the last great crop of free agents for some time because of the CBA. The way teams will be mandated to spend and the way contracts for high picks are now structured means more and more teams will make big efforts to lock up their top players before they get near free agency.

When Adams dictated the Titans draft Vince Young third overall in 2006, the decision had long-lasting negative implications for the organization.

I am sure Adams feels like landing Manning will help offset the Young failure.

He may have missed on his beloved Houston native and University of Texas quarterback. But if he lands an all-time great for the final three or four years of his career, he will have pulled a giant fish into his franchise's boat.

But if that fish doesn’t bite on the Titans’ line, will Adams have made another move with long-ranging, negative implications?

Will we go forward wondering about the guys the Titans were unable to chase and sign because their focus was on Manning?
Does anyone want to play quarterback for the Miami Dolphins next season? It sure doesn't look that way.

After failing to woo future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning, the Dolphins also missed on their second choice Sunday. Former Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Matt Flynn agreed to a modest three-year, $26 million contract with the Seattle Seahawks, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports.

This is another big blow to Dolphins ownership and the front office, which thought it could make a splash this offseason. Instead, the Dolphins have been turned down by veteran coach Jeff Fisher, Manning and now Flynn in a short span. Each decline adds further humiliation to the Dolphins, who were already viewed as a shaky organization at the top to begin with.

But the Dolphins losing out on Flynn may be the biggest surprise of the three, considering Flynn's deep ties with rookie Miami head coach Joe Philbin. The pair spent four years growing together in Green Bay, which made Miami the early favorite to get Flynn.

But something didn't go right this weekend when Flynn met with Miami's brass. Perhaps money was the issue. But were the Dolphins unwilling to give up $26 million for a starting quarterback? Or maybe things just didn't feel right for Flynn in Miami, and he thought Seattle was a better fit.

Regardless, the Dolphins have become one of the league's biggest offseason losers in the first week of free agency. They traded away their best receiver (Brandon Marshall) for pennies on the dollar and continue to whiff in their quarterback search.

The home run (Manning) or any potential extra-base hits (Robert Griffin III, Flynn) are out of the question for the Dolphins. Miami had its three strikes, and it's simply time to go back to the dugout and regroup.

The Dolphins may get desperate and sign Alex Smith or David Garrard. But that would only add to Miami's misery. Neither player is the long-term solution. A case can be made that Dolphins incumbent Matt Moore is better in the short term, especially if you consider the millions it would take to sign Smith, who helped lead the San Francisco 49ers to the NFC Championship Game.

Miami just needs to stick with Moore and draft a quarterback, perhaps Ryan Tannehill, at No. 8 overall. Free agency could be used to patch up holes at receiver, right guard and right tackle. The Dolphins have suffered enough embarrassment chasing quarterbacks.

But with Miami's front office, you just never know. Maybe we will see Smith in a Dolphins uniform in 2012, or an old-fashioned quarterback competition between Moore and Garrard in training camp.

Anything is possible.
Alex Smith repeatedly set aside his pride during seven seasons with the San Francisco 49ers.

It's good to see him make an exception when warranted.

Smith
Manning
Smith's free-agent visit to the Miami Dolphins might look like an attempt by that organization to further suppress the price for another free-agent quarterback, Matt Flynn.

But let's face it, Flynn was already languishing on the discount rack. Green Bay thought better of naming him its franchise player. Seattle, though interested, did not make Flynn an offer during his recent visit to the team's headquarters. And if the Seahawks do make an offer, they likely will not value him appreciably more than they valued Tarvaris Jackson, who signed for $4 million a year.

From Smith's perspective, a visit to the Dolphins -- or any team -- was exactly what he needed after the 49ers entered the chase for Peyton Manning.

San Francisco remains the best fit for Smith. But if the 49ers do land Manning, Smith will have to find a job elsewhere. There's nothing wrong with the 49ers looking out for their own interests by considering an obvious upgrade at quarterback. There's likewise nothing wrong with Smith looking out for his interests as well.

Smith swallowed his pride last offseason when he returned to the 49ers following a brutal six-year run with the team. He previously said and did all the right things through multiple coaching changes and organizational miscues. He did stand up to then-coach Mike Nolan when Nolan publicly questioned his toughness, one of the few times Smith has stood up for himself. That was absolutely warranted.

The circumstances are warranted this time as well. Even if Manning opts for Tennessee instead of the 49ers, can Smith be certain San Francisco would take him back over, say, a newly available Matt Hasselbeck? To what extent does Smith still trust his longtime agent, Tom Condon, and his latest coach, Jim Harbaugh? We do not yet have answers to these questions. Does Smith?

Condon has also represented Manning, an obvious conflict of interest. And Harbaugh, for all the public support he has offered Smith, must put the 49ers' interests over Smith's interests. Because in the end, football is a business, even for a team that went out of its way to promote itself as one big family.
Peyton Manning worked out for the Tennessee Titans in Knoxville Saturday morning and general manager Ruston Webster issued a short statement afterwards.
"This morning we traveled to Knoxville and had a workout with Peyton. I thought he looked comfortable throwing the ball and we had a good visit. This is another important step in the process."

Indications again seem to be that the Titans, San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos are competing to sign Manning, who’s now expected to make a decision early in the coming week.

The arm and health issues we thought would be a big deal for teams clearly have been addressed to the satisfaction of all three teams.

One report out of Denver, however, said the Broncos now have diminished expectations about landing Manning.

Now we wait, some more.
Thaisport from San Francisco wants my take on the Peyton Manning news regarding the San Francisco 49ers. He thinks this is a "win-win" situation because Manning would deliver an NFC West title to the 49ers, Manning would make every offensive player better and the team knows Alex Smith will still be there as a fallback.

Manning
"A solid core of offensive players around a decent QB can make him look good," Thaisport writes. "A great QB around a solid core of players would make them look great. I think the 49ers front office is making all the right moves so far this off season. Your thoughts?"

Mike Sando: It's clear we need to break old habits when analyzing the 49ers. They were an easy team to mock when Jed York was publicly guaranteeing division titles with an 0-5 record, Mike Singletary was dropping trou as head coach, the team was changing offensive coordinators every year, Smith was floundering and the stadium situation remained a mess.

We should not underestimate this organization. York has led a successful push for a new stadium. He went against convention when hiring Trent Baalke as his general manager, with better-than-expected results (think NaVorro Bowman, Carlos Rogers, Donte Whitner, paying Ray McDonald instead of Aubrayo Franklin). The organization secured Jim Harbaugh as head coach when Harbaugh was the hottest and, it turns out, best candidate. Gideon Yu and Kunal Malik were also strategic additions.

Now, one week into the Manning circus, we find out the 49ers have made a very calculating move to position themselves for the quarterback's services. This strikes me as something the 49ers would not have seriously considered right after the season, when the bond between Smith and Harbaugh was strongest. This decision was easier to make a couple months into the offseason, when strategic thinking takes its firmest hold.

This is a bold move, and one an organization doesn't make without leadership at the ownership level. York presumably saw this as a rare opportunity to seize upon a championship window. Sticking with Smith would have been more comfortable. The 49ers might wind up going that route, anyway. They could have some damage control to do if that is the case. But nothing ventured, nothing gained. Randy Moss' addition was another move with the short term in mind.

Smith has shown he's adept at swallowing his pride. And in this case, we're talking about Peyton Manning, not some average quarterback. I'm reminded of Arizona defensive end Darnell Dockett's public support for Manning as Kevin Kolb's replacement on the Cardinals. Dockett said he would have no trouble with someone lobbying for the team to sign a new defensive end if Reggie White or Bruce Smith were the ones under consideration.

That is how I feel about teams pursuing Manning when they already have quarterbacks in place. Those teams' existing quarterbacks might not like it, but that is too bad for them. Owners, executives and coaches have a responsibility to act in the best interests of their organizations. Looking into Manning qualifies as that type of move.
Now that the Miami Dolphins are officially out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes, it's time to look ahead to their future.

Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post makes a compelling case that Manning turning down the Dolphins is actually best for the franchise. Fortenbaugh contends that Miami will be able to build the team for the long term over the next few years.
"And while the Dolphins -- like any organization looking to take the next step -- could certainly have benefited from a healthy Manning's skill set and expertise, this is a team that would be better served by acquiring a younger signal caller whom new head coach Joe Philbin could develop and the front office could build around.
Manning turns 36 on March 24. In the 46 Super Bowls that have been played, only eight of the 92 quarterbacks who have started under center did so at the age of 36 or older. More specifically, the last ten Super Bowls have only seen two quarterbacks start the game at the age of 36 or older (Rich Gannon, Kurt Warner) and both of those guys came up short."

I see Fortenbaugh's point, and this is certainly the direction Miami is going. But I disagree with the idea that winning later is better than winning now.

Manning would've been the best option because Miami would have been an instant contender. Any other option, such as Matt Flynn, Matt Moore or Ryan Tannehill, isn't enough for Miami to supplant the New England Patriots in the AFC East anytime soon.

In fact, the Dolphins are probably looking at a two-year rebuilding process under rookie head coach Philbin. That is not what owner Stephen Ross, who has deep pockets, envisioned. But it's the reality.

It's too early to make predictions. But I think a case can be made that the Buffalo Bills, with Mario Williams, and the veteran-laden New York Jets may be in better position to win now in 2011. We will know about where Miami stands after the draft and free agency.

NFL32: 49ers' chances at Manning?

March, 16, 2012
3/16/12
10:39
PM ET


Suzy and Mort discuss if Peyton Manning is a possibility for the 49ers, and Manning's old college coach, David Cutcliffe, talks about the quarterback's current state of health.
Some Browns fans thought Kevin Kolb would be productive in the Browns' West Coast offense. Some thought he would flop like so many other recent Browns quarterbacks. Others wondered whether the often-injured passer would survive playing in the hard-hitting AFC North.

No one will know how it would turn out, because Kolb won't be a free agent. According to ESPN's Suzy Kolber, the Arizona Cardinals have decided to keep Kolb on the team, which will trigger a $7 million roster bonus Saturday. The Cardinals are apparently out of the running for Peyton Manning, who seemed to skip the Lake Erie area in his free-agent tour.

With every passing day in free agency, it's looking like the Browns won't make an addition at quarterback before the draft. Cleveland could still take a quarterback like Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill or Oklahoma State's Brandon Weeden in the first two rounds.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that the San Francisco 49ers have emerged as a third finalist in the Peyton Manning derby.

Per Mort, Manning has worked out for San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh and taken a physical, but not visited the team facility. The Niners now join the Broncos and Titans as finalists for Manning's services.

Quite frankly, the 49ers are the best candidate if getting a Lombardi Trophy is Manning's top goal.

They were a game away from the Super Bowl last year. They've got an excellent defense. And although Harbaugh is a bit of a control freak, giving him Peyton Manning at the helm could make for some fantastic offense.

The 49ers may be the clear-cut favorite to win the NFC West without Manning. With him, they'd be a very popular pick to win the division and host the NFC title game.

The Titans and owner Bud Adams can't be happy to see San Francisco emerge.

Well, then. The Arizona Cardinals' competition for Peyton Manning has grown to include a division rival.

Manning worked out for San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and took a physical for the team this week, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen.

This does not necessarily make the 49ers a favorite for Manning. It could help explain why the 49ers have not quickly re-signed Alex Smith during the opening days of free agency, despite a longstanding pledge to bring him back for 2012 and beyond. The 49ers' involvement, rather than causing a delay with Smith, might also reflect the state of negotiations. It is possible Smith is asking for more money than the 49ers are offering, leading the team to explore options that could, in turn, bring Smith back to the table.

Manning and Smith share the same agent, Tom Condon, further affecting dynamics. Smith presumably is not surprised by these developments, in other words.

The 49ers are emerging publicly as a factor just as the Arizona Cardinals' chances for Manning appear to be diminishing. Arizona must decide by 4 p.m. ET whether to pay a $7 million bonus for incumbent quarterback Kevin Kolb. Failing to pay the bonus would make Kolb a free agent, leaving John Skelton and Rich Bartel as their only quarterbacks under contract.

The 49ers, unlike the Cardinals, face to looming deadline with Smith. But it's now a fact that Manning is affecting three offseasons within the NFC West. Seattle reached out with strong interest, only to have Manning show no reciprocal interest. Arizona secured a meeting with Manning, only to spend this week waiting for a response. Now, the 49ers are in the mix.

Fun, fun stuff. More to come.

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