Recently released quarterback Peyton Manning is the most highly sought after athlete to hit the free agent market since LeBron James in 2010. This is validated by the coverage all mainstream sports outlets have focused on Manning’s every move since his release, from tracking his private plane destinations to having a camera crew follow the car Manning has been from the airport to team’s facilities.
Over the weekend Manning officially visited with two franchises; the Denver Broncos and the Arizona Cardinals, and has met with the Tennessee Titans as well. It has also been noted that Manning would like to make a decision fairly soon, as quickly as this week. Of the teams in pursuit of Manning the Dolphins, Broncos and Cardinals most likely have the best chance of landing Manning’s services.
The Dolphins probably hurt their chances of signing Manning when they traded away the best receiver on their roster for peanuts. The Cardinals being in the NFC makes them a secondary candidate. It is my belief that Manning will eventually end up a Bronco when the smoke clears.
1.) Front office. John Elway was named the Broncos Executive vice president of football operations in 2011. In short, he makes the decisions. Given the fact that current starter Tim Tebow was not drafted by Elway, and Elway has expressed on numerous occasions that he prefers a more conventional quarterback, just as he was in his playing days.
Elway won his two Super Bowl titles at ages 37 and 38, so Manning’s age probably isn’t as big a concern for Denver as other teams.
2.) Cap space. The Broncos have a reported $42.3 mil in cap space. That gives the Broncos the flexibility to offer Manning a decent contract while also adding a couple receivers to improve their passing game, specifically a couple of Manning’s old teammates like a Dallas Clark or a Brandon Lloyd type. There are good free agent receiving options available for Denver.
Add those veteran receivers to an already promising young core of Demaryius Thomas and Erik Decker and the Broncos would have one of the better receiver corps in the AFC.
3.) Offensive line. The Broncos line is not as bad as advertised, once you take into consideration that they had to protect an unpredictable QB like Tebow. LT Ryan Clady is a pro-bowler and Chris Kuper was a solid guard before breaking his leg in 2011. RT Ryan Harris is also an above average RT when healthy.
4.) Defense and a strong running game are luxuries that Manning never enjoyed as a Colt, but the Broncos are decent in both categories. The Broncos have exceptional pass rushers in Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller, a veteran leader in the secondary in Champ Bailey. Although the Broncos will need to find upgrades at corner.
Willis Mcgahee may be getting up there in age but he is a reliable big back that can get tough yards and is coming off of a 1,199 yard season at 30. Knowshown Moreno has been a bit of a disappoint to date but still has first round talent. Playing will a quarterback of Manning’s caliber might be a motivating factor for Moreno.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that Manning to the Broncos is a lock, but given the circumstances I believe it’s a strong possibility. If Manning does end up in Denver I would bet the factors mentioned here are key reasons it happens.