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Sunday, March 11, 2012
Peyton Manning narrows options

By Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter
ESPN

After at least 12 teams contacted Peyton Manning when he became a free agent, the former Indianapolis Colts quarterback has narrowed his options.

The Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals, the first two teams Manning visited, are considered his two likeliest landing spots, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The Seattle Seahawks continue to try to arrange a meeting with Manning, according to sources, but so far they have been unable to do so.

Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams told the Tennessean on Sunday that he also would like to employ Manning.

"He is the man I want. Period," Adams told the paper. "And the people that work for me understand that. They know who I want. I want Mr. Manning with the Titans and I will be disappointed if it doesn't happen."

Manning still could wind up meeting with the Dolphins, but indications are that Miami isn't as high on his list as Denver and Arizona.

There always is the possibility another team suddenly jumps into the fray, the sources said, but it is looking increasingly likely there are only a few viable possibilities at this time.

One source who spoke with Manning prior to his visit with the Cardinals said "his gut is that Manning is leaning toward Denver."

The Broncos' advantages include Manning's relationship with executive vice president of football operations John Elway and coach John Fox and the fact that joining them would keep him in the AFC, where he has played all his professional football with the Colts.

Yet the Cardinals will make a hard push and put on what one team source said is a "Louisville-style full-court press." Manning also is close with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and has played golf with him.

The free-agent quarterback spent nearly 6½ hours at the Arizona Cardinals' headquarters and training facility on Sunday in meetings designed to lure the superstar to the desert.

The session was even longer than the nearly six hours Manning spent at the Broncos' facility in Denver on Friday night.

Manning waved and smiled at cheering fans as he walked from the building to coach Ken Whisenhunt's white SUV. With the coach at the wheel, Manning waved again as the SUV pulled through the security gate and past the loud supporters.

He was expected to return to his home in Florida.

A few minutes earlier, Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald arrived in his own car.

General manager Rod Graves and most of the members of Whisenhunt's staff, including offensive coordinator Larry Miller, offensive line and assistant head coach Russ Grimm and defensive coordinator Ray Horton also were there. Wide receiver Andre Roberts spent several hours there, as did Lisa Manning (no relation), the Cardinals' vice president for marketing.

Bidwill arrived about an hour and a half after Manning did.

"Get it done, Michael," a fan yelled. "Come on, buddy."

"This team missed on Montana when he went to K.C.," said another Cardinals source. "This is a different owner, just with the same last name. Michael will do what it takes.

"He is hugely aware of our fan base and how his dad is viewed. He came to work with this team to get the stadium built. It took him a long time to get that done, but he did.

"He is a driven young owner that wants to totally change this franchise's image."

And he views landing Manning as the next step in that process. Sources say that would not necessarily be a strong selling point to Manning, who is looking simply for a "comfortable football and organizational fit." Along those lines, the Broncos and Cardinals have staffs that have shown flexibility in adapting their offense to a quarterback's strengths, as the Broncos did with Tim Tebow and the Cardinals did with Kurt Warner.

Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst. Adam Schefter is ESPN's NFL Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.