12 teams call Peyton Manning's reps
On the same day Peyton Manning officially left the only professional home he's ever had, his representatives were contacted by 12 of the NFL's 32 clubs, multiple sources told ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter.
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The Miami Dolphins and Washington Redskins also reached out to Manning's camp, league sources told Schefter. And the Tennessee Titans and New York Jets have also been rumored as a possible destinations. Manning's former offensive coordinator in Indianapolis, Tom Moore, worked for the Jets as a consultant last season.
The Indianapolis Colts officially released Manning on Wednesday and he will become a free agent and be eligible to negotiate and sign with teams as soon as he clears waivers Thursday. The 14-year veteran does not need to wait until the free-agent period that begins next Tuesday, and he acknowledged his agent already was taking calls.
"I have no idea who wants me, what team wants me, how this process works," Manning told a group of reporters in South Florida, where he has a home and flew after the news conference. "I don't know if it's like college recruiting where you go take visits. I mean, this is all so new to me."
Sources told Mortensen on Tuesday that Manning expects to have significant dialogue with interested teams before he makes a decision on where to resume his career and will likely work out for a few select teams once he studies his opportunities.
Manning's camp wants to make a decision within the next week. Manning would prefer to stay in the AFC but is open to playing in the NFC, league sources told Schefter.
Manning, however, denied that he personally had talked with any team as of Wednesday afternoon.
"I literally have not had one conversation with anyone about these teams. It's been so hard for me trying to figure out some closure with my situation with the Colts," Manning said in South Florida. "I haven't thought about teams, and I don't know who is interested. I really don't." Manning, who will be 36 later this month, became a free agent after the Colts decided not to pick up a $28 million bonus he was due because of concerns they had over his readiness to play in the NFL again.
He missed the entire 2011 season after having his third neck surgery in 19 months, a fusion of two vertebrae. But Dr. Robert Watkins, who performed the single-level cervical fusion, has stated publicly that he has cleared Manning to resume his playing career and the damaged nerves have regenerated to the point where Manning has thrown the ball with greater distance and velocity in the past few weeks.
I have no idea who wants me, what team wants me, how this process works. I don't know if it's like college recruiting where you go take visits. I mean, this is all so new to me."” -- Peyton Manning on free agent process
"I'm throwing it pretty well. I've still got some work to do; I've got some progress to make," Manning said at Wednesday's news conference in Indianapolis announcing his departure. "But I've come a long way. I've really worked hard. I can't tell you the hours and the time I've put in."
Manning broke all of Indianapolis' career records for quarterbacks and had never missed a start before last season. He's taken the Colts to the playoffs 11 times, captured seven AFC South titles in eight years, won two AFC championships, one Super Bowl title and a Super Bowl MVP Award.
Colts receiver Reggie Wayne, who will be an unrestricted free agent starting Tuesday, March 13, was asked by Michael Irvin on his WQAM radio show in Miami about possibly re-teaming with Manning with the Dolphins.
"It can definitely be dangerous," Wayne said in the interview of Manning, Wayne and receiver Brandon Marshall being on the same team. "It can truly be dangerous, if they put us all together. The league might not want that, Mike. They might not want that. They might not want to see that. South Florida is already hot out here, baby, so you put us all together, it'll be burning up."
Tony Dungy, Manning's former coach with the Colts who is now an NBC analyst, said Wednesday in an interview with ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning" that Manning will consider signing anywhere except with an NFC East team, where he would have to challenge his brother Eli for a division title and playoff spot.
"I don't think he'd want to be in direct competition for a playoff spot against the Giants," Dungy said, adding that he believes Manning can run any style of offense but that "managing the expectations will be the biggest issue" for the quarterback.
Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett tweeted "Peyton to AZ!!!!!" on Tuesday night and then expounded on his hopes his team would sign Manning in an interview with the NFL Network.
"I don't have anything against our quarterback (Kevin Kolb) we have now," Dockett said. "I feel confident in him. Who wouldn't want to play with Peyton Manning?
"We are a team that is a few pieces away from getting back to the big game. We got a perfect fit for him in Arizona. He can get his number and I'll get him parking passes, free doughnuts on Saturdays. I'll make sure my guys clean his cleats up real well. I'll give him all my connections, even my barber."
Information from ESPN senior NFL analyst Chris Mortensen, ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, ESPN NFL reporter Josina Anderson and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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