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Pi Network

Draft King Analysis
March 11, 2012
Lou Pickney,

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It has been amusing to see the media coverage of the courting of free agent QB Peyton Manning by several teams in the NFL. The latest twist came earlier today from an article written by Jim Wyatt in The Tennessean (Nashville's largest newspaper, which I wrote for circa 1993-1994) with comments attributed to a phone interview with Titans owner Bud Adams. The money quote: "I want Mr. Manning with the Titans and I will be disappointed if it doesn't happen."

The reality is that the Titans don't have the cap space to outbid others for Manning, even if they were dead-set on signing him. There is some irony that Manning is actually younger than Tennessee's current starting quarterback, Matt Hasselbeck, though this is more about winning in 2012 and possibly 2013 than anything else.

It's silliness, really, or perhaps Bud Adams doing some Texas Hold 'Em style bluffing in an attempt to artificially inflate the market for Manning. I doubt that there's much need in trying to drive Manning's price up via statements to the press, not with Denver and Arizona and Miami (and possibly San Francisco as a dark horse if Alex Smith remains unsigned by Tuesday) all vying for him, among other teams that have kept a lower-profile. It will be interesting to see how the incumbent starting quarterbacks on the teams that made a play for Manning and missed out on him will react and what teams will do in attempts to spin the situation.

This article by Mike Klis of the Denver Post revealed that Manning declined offers from the Kansas City Chiefs and the Seattle Seahawks for visits. Pete Carroll's seat in Seattle just got a bit hotter, and the parallels between him (entering year three of a five-year, $33 million deal) and Mike Shanahan in Washington (entering year three of a five-year, $35 million deal) are notable.

Mike Shanahan mortgaged the Redskins' future to move into position to draft a QB in Robert Griffin III who might be able to help Shanahan save his job. Carroll wasn't able to make such a move up in Seattle, and if his best option is panicking and using the #12 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft on Texas A&M QB Ryan Tannehill, Carroll might find himself on the outside looking in after this season.

If the battle for Manning comes down to money, and I'm not expecting money to be the driving force, but if cash proves to be a tiebreaker, Denver can outspend Miami and any shadow teams that might be lurking, hoping to make an 11th hour deal for Manning. As per this report on PFT, the disparity in cap room between Denver and the other contenders (including those said to be out of the running, like Kansas City) is striking:

Broncos: $44.7 million under
Chiefs: $32.5 million under
Seahawks: $29.8 million under
Titans: $28.1 million under
49ers: $21.8 million under
Browns: $17.4 million under
Cardinals: $16.4 million over

I had no idea that Arizona was so far over the cap, and it seems silly that they even bothered to bring in Manning for a visit if they are that squeezed for 2012. To be fair, Arizona will drop $14.5 million off the cap by the expected release of OT Levi Brown, who never lived up to expectations as the #5 overall pick in 2007, but even that wouldn't put them under the cap. Seeing Peyton Manning throw the ball to Larry Fitzgerald would be spectacular for Cardinals fans, and fans of great QB/WR tandems in general, but there's likely no chance of that happening, at least not this season.

One scenario where things could get really interesting is if Manning remains unsigned by the time free agency starts on Tuesday at 4 p.m. EDT. Does a team with interest in pending UFA QB Matt Flynn hold off on making him an offer if Manning is still in play? It's difficult to project with much confidence how that will play out, in no small part because of the rampant swerving, misdirections, and "leaks" that may or may not be an attempt to manipulate a player's perceived value via the media.


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