Five questions stemming from the Broncos’ signing of Peyton Manning

Are the Broncos an instant Super Bowl contender?
Everything hinders on whether or not Peyton Manning really is healthy and if the Denver defense can play as well next year as it did last season. If Manning only lasts six games or the defense falls apart, then the underachieving Chargers could easily take the AFC West next season. That said, the Broncos’ defense shouldn’t have to hold teams to under 10 points with Manning under center and Peyton could make stars out of receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, assuming the two can stay healthy. And let’s put it this way, the Broncos’ Super Bowl odds went from 25/1 to 7/1 following the signing of Manning. There’s no doubt that this addition has put the Broncos over the top.

Is Peyton healthy?
Manning told reporters at his press conference on Tuesday that if the Broncos had a game on Sunday, he would be able to play. He said he might not play at the level he expects of himself, but he would be on the field. He also said that he hopes to be on the field for OTAs in April and that he insists he’s been open with teams about his medical history. At this point, Manning deserves to be taken at his word. If he’s still hurt, I highly doubt he would have convinced John Elway to give him $96 million over the next five years. Peyton has too much respect for Elway and the game of football then to deceive anyone. That said, I have no doubt that he’s healthy now but what happens after he takes that first hit? I’m less concerned about his current health and more concerned about whether or not he can hold up over the entire course of the season. After all, he had major nerve damage in his neck.

Are the Broncos making the right decision to move on from Tebow?
The Broncos are taking three separate risks with this signing. The first risk is assuming Manning will be the same player he was before he underwent multiple injuries. The second rest is giving him a $96 million contract and the third risk is that they’re reportedly willing to put Tim Tebow on the trade market. I view the first two risks as major, while the third is more of a small gamble that Tebow wasn’t going to get them much further than he did last season. After all, he may have beaten a banged up Pittsburgh team in the Wild Card round but he was completely exposed by the Patriots the following week. That said, he did win plenty of games last year for the Broncos and whether it was luck or the hand of God, Tebow was a big part of the team’s success in 2012. If Manning only plays two games next year before getting hurt again, some in Denver will wonder why the team was so quickly to part with Tebow just months after he led them to a playoff victory.

What will happen to Tebow?
As of Tuesday night the Jaguars, Jets, and Packers reportedly have interest in Tebow. According to NFL Network’s Mike Lombardi, the Jaguars have “serious interest” in trading for Tebow while the New York Daily News says that the Jets have “legitimate interest” in the former Gator. In rather surprising news, former Rams’ VP of Player Personnel Tony Softli told ESPN 101 in St. Louis that the Packers have at least some interest in Tebow as well. While he may not be viewed as a future starter, the Broncos should have plenty of trade suitors for Tebow if/when they want to put him on the market. The Jaguars make the most sense to land Tebow but there always seems to be a surprise team to come out of the woodwork.

What team got hurt the most in Manning’s decision?
The Miami Dolphins took one off the chin this week. After failing to lure Manning to Miami, the Dolphins reportedly low-balled Matt Flynn (who decided to sign with Seattle), and couldn’t convince an angry Alex Smith to leave San Francisco. (Smith re-signed with the 49ers on Tuesday.) So now the Dolphins are left with Plan D, which is former Jaguar David Garrard, whom they signed on Monday. As of right now Garrard will compete with Matt Moore for the starting job in 2008, which is about as exciting as a box full of yarn. Granted, the Dolphins do own the No. 8 overall pick but if the Browns take Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannenhill at No. 4, Miami probably won’t have an opportunity to draft their future signal caller in April. No wonder fans were reportedly ready to protest the firing of GM Jeff Ireland – the Dolphins are a mess.

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Peyton Manning’s next contract to be around $90 million?

This just in: NFL owners are insane.

According to NFL Network’s Albert Breer, the parameters of the five-year, $90 million contract that Peyton Manning signed last year with the Colts are serving as the “starting point for negotiations on his next deal.”

Let’s push the rewind button for a second. This is the same Manning that is coming off four neck surgeries and may not be able to withstand one more hit in the NFL, nevertheless countless hits over the next five years.

Seeing as how he makes the league more competitive and fun to watch, I’m pulling for him to rebound and be the same player he was before. But the fact remains that until he gets on that field again, he’s the ultimate risk. I’ve spoken with former athletes who have dealt with similar nerve damage and they were never the same following surgery. They would throw a ball as hard as they could only to have their entire arm go numb for the next 20 minutes. And while Manning might not suffer through the same misfortunate, who knows where he’ll be in September when he starts taking hits from 290-pound defensive ends.

Whichever team signs him will sell a lot of Manning No. 18 jerseys, or at least that’s what these owners are probably thinking. And considering he has multiple teams interested in his services, there’s no reason for Peyton not to ask for big money and play it off like 2011 was a complete aberration. If teams are willing to pay, good for him and his representatives for making them pony up to see which cards he’s holding.

But $18 million a season for the next five years? Yikes. Obviously we have no idea how the final contract will be structured and the total number could be much less than $90 million. In fact, the Denver Post reports that the Broncos’ offer is for $60 million, with $30 million guaranteed.

That said, $60 million is still a ton of money for a team to be investing in, for all intents and purposes, a complete unknown. Peyton isn’t going to take a $5 million “show me deal,” nor should he. But unless that $90 million turns out to be an incentive-laden deal (which is unlikely), then whichever team lands him might as well start holding its breath the minute he signs on the dotted line. Because they don’t quite know what they’re getting for their money and one workout at Duke isn’t going to tell them either.

Report: Manning leaves Arizona after a 6.5-hour visit with Cardinals

Following a 6.5-hour visit with the Cardinals, Peyton Manning has left Tempe tweets Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. Somers says that he’s not sure were Peyton is off to next as the quarterback continues his free agent tour around the country.

This is what Rotowold had to say on the matter:

If you’re keeping score at home, the visit lasted a half hour long than his Broncos trip. Manning was driven out of the facility by coach Ken Whisenhunt. OL coach Russ Grimm, Larry Fitzgerald, and president Michael Bidwill also participated in the meeting. There is still no indication as to where Manning will play football in 2012, and he’s not known to have set up a meeting with the Dolphins. He’s now expected to return to his Miami vacation home.

Boy, I bet Kevin Kolb is feeling pretty secure about his situation in Arizona right about now. While he sits at home following a bust of a first season with the Cardinals, his head coach, his No. 1 receiver, and his team’s president are all out wining and dining Peyton Manning. At least if Manning signs elsewhere Kolb is going to get a pretty nice “We’re sorry for flirting with Peyton Manning” gift in the form of a $7 million bonus due on March 17. But if Manning does indeed land in the desert then Kolb will likely be looking for work just one year after arriving to Arizona.

At least on the surface, the Cardinals look like the perfect fit for Manning. They play in a dome, they have one of the best receivers in the game in Fitzgerald, and they’re only four years removed from appearing in the Super Bowl. My gut says he’ll wind up in Denver but all signs point to Arizona at this point.

What do the odds say about where Peyton Manning will play in 2012?

Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning calls a play against the New Orleans Saints in the first quarter during the NFL’s Super Bowl XLIV football game in Miami, Florida, February 7, 2010. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES)

Now that he has officially be released from the Colts, speculation is heating up on where Peyton Manning will sign for the 2012 season.

So what do the odds say about which team will sign Manning when the free agency period kicks off next week?

According to oddsmakers at the online sports book, the Dolphins are the favorites to land Manning at +125. The team with the next best odds is the Cardinals at +350, followed by the Chiefs at +600, the Jets at +700, and the Seahawks and Redskins at +800, respectively.

Some of the long shots include the Broncos (+1000), 49ers (+1000), Texans (+1800) and Titans (+1800). There’s also +600 odds on “The Field,” which constitutes any other team not listed by the website, as well as “No Team,” which has odds of +1200. “No Team” comes with the stipulation that Manning doesn’t throw a pass in the 2012/13 NFL regular season.

As expected, rumors are flying in regards to where Peyton will wind up. ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported this morning that the Chiefs and Broncos have spoken to Manning’s reps, although Peyton reportedly has no interest in playing for a cold weather team. If that’s true, that would theoretically take the Broncos, Chiefs, Jets and Seahawks out of the running, while making teams like the Cardinals and Dolphins the frontrunners.

Personally I’m pulling for Manning to wind up in New York, although only because it would make for the best storylines. Manning and Brady could go toe-to-toe twice a year and the Manning brothers would be playing in the same city. Plus, the dynamics between Peyton and Rex Ryan would be fun to watch unfold.

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