Situation room: The offseason possibilities of Peyton Manning
It's a long shot.
I want to make that clear before we even broach the subject of the Seattle Seahawks and Peyton Manning. First of all, he may not be available. And second, if he were to become available, there will be a line of teams interested in his services.
Now, with those qualifiers out of the way, let's get into what just might become the most compelling question of this NFL offseason. When last we left Peyton Manning, he was sitting out the season after undergoing three procedures on his neck in the span of 19 months. He still managed to show his value, though, as a Colts team that had nine consecutive playoff berths plummeted to the bottom of the league, finishing 2-14 and "earning" the No. 1 overall choice.
Since the season ended, the Colts fired the general manager who drafted Manning (Bill Polian), the head coach he played for (Jim Caldwell) and more recently the strength-and-conditioning coach. Indianapolis holds the first pick in the draft, and there's every expectation the Colts are going to use that choice on a quarterback, most likely Andrew Luck of Stanford. Then there's the not-so-small matter of a $28 million bonus Manning is due on March 8 under the terms of his current contract with the Colts.
That sets the scene for the drama that's about to unfold.
Do the Colts intend to keep Manning? Well, they've given no indication that they won't, and it's not inconceivable that he could remain the Colts starter while a rookie learns in the background. Philip Rivers did just that in San Diego, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2004 draft backing up Drew Brees for two years.
Manning's $28 million bonus makes that arrangement more problematic, though. This has nothing to do with the salary cap and everything to do with the outlay of cash. It's hard to see a team paying that sum without being fully committed to the belief Manning will be the starting quarterback for years to come. Conversely, it's hard to see a team fully committed to the belief Manning will be the starting quarterback for years to come turning around and using the first pick in the draft on Luck, who is only considered the top quarterback prospect to enter the NFL since Manning.
And then there's the question of what Manning wants, and he's given some hints in that regard. On Tuesday, the Indianapolis Star a Bob Kravitz column based on an extensive interview with Manning:
"I'm not in a very good place for healing, let's say that. It's not a real good environment down there right now, to say the least. Everybody's walking around on eggshells. I don't recognize our building right now. There's such complete and total change."
Peyton Manning to the Indianapolis Star, Jan. 23, 2012
And in case that was too subtle, Manning repeated the message in an interview with Judy Battista of the New York Times for a story that otherwise focused on his perspective on younger brother Eli's success:
"I've been in the facility every day rehabbing, and everybody in the building is walking around on eggshells because nobody knows who is going to get fired next. It's not the kind of environment you like to be in."
-- Peyton Manning to the New York Times, Jan. 23, 2012
Is he going to be available? You'll have to ask Colts owner Jim Irsay. He's first in line to make a decision of whether he wants to pony up the $28 million called for under the contract. If he does, then Manning remains property of the Colts.
If that price is too steep, however, it would make his exit from Indianapolis possible and perhaps even likely.
Could Manning end up in Seattle? Jason LaCanfora - a reporter for the NFL's official Web site - posited the Seahawks and Cardinals as possible destinations earlier this week.
The logistics for becoming a Seahawk wouldn't be complicated. There's no long-term commitment to a quarterback currently in place, there's an owner who has never shied away from cutting a check to improve his team's roster and there is tangible proof that this is a young team on the cusp of contention.
Of course, Seattle isn't going to be the only team in line. Wouldn't the 49ers be interested? Sure, Alex Smith had a better year than anyone expected, but he's unsigned for 2012, and we're talking about Peyton Manning here. For that matter, are the Cardinals so confident in Kevin Kolb that they're beyond being interested in Manning? Would the New York Jets really turn up their nose at the possibility?
Yes, Peyton Manning is on the other side of 35. Yes, he missed an entire season because of a neck condition that has required three surgeries, but there are going to be plenty of teams willing to bet on the possibility that he's recovered enough to play a couple of solid seasons especially if all you have to do to acquire him is spend some money.
Would Manning want to play in Seattle? There's been no indication that's the case as he has never played for a team based west of the Mississippi River. But if Arizona is one of the teams considered a viable candidate, there's no reason to think Seattle wouldn't be.
Could it happen? Like I said, I'd consider it a longshot, but with free agency more than a month away, there's nothing to prohibit discussing the possibility of acquiring Peyton Manning.