With Peyton Manning the biggest free agent the NFL has ever seen, there is a ton of interest, despite the fact he did not play in 2011 and has had four neck surgeries. Among those teams include the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins, and others.
Where will he end up?
The writing staff here at SB Nation Arizona give our two cents.
I just can't see him coming to Arizona, as much as it makes sense. There's too much money tied up in Kevin Kolb and the coaches need at least another year to evaluate him and more than a few days to decide if Manning's neck is fit enough to commit to him. The Cardinals are strong on defense and they have Larry Fitzgerald and Beanie Wells. An O-line upgrade is really all Kolb needs to be more effective.
Manning will land in either Miami or Seattle, I think. Both need upgrades at quarterback, both have money to spend and both can develop a young QB with Manning as a mentor. The Seahawks can fall back on Tarvaris Jackson if Manning somehow isn't ready for training camp.
I think he will end up as a Cardinal because, outside of the Houston Texans (who are probably hesitant to give up Matt Schaub for a couple years of Manning) and the San Francisco 49ers (an organization that just seems too rigid for Peyton), he makes the most sense in Arizona. They have a decent and improving defense, a strong coach, a lot of offensive weapons, and a history of allowing a stellar QB to make his own calls.
Foolish or not, I think that Peyton ends up with the Cardinals. For the second act of his career, Manning will want to play somewhere extremely different from Indy and he'll be intrigued by teams with a top wide receiver. The heat of Arizona and Larry Fitzgerald fit those two bills. Also, Manning will want to go to a team that gives him a high chance of winning. You can definitely make cases for Miami or Seattle, but the Cardinals have the advantage of a recent case study in Kurt Warner: aging quarterback comes to the desert, gets reinvigorated and rides his momentum all the way to the Super Bowl. Think Manning won't be intrigued by that?
Part of me says that the Cardinals just couldn't have something good like that happen to them. But it all makes sense. Unless Manning really wants to play near his South Florida home, I can't see him not picking the Cardinals for all the previously mentioned reasons. The weather is great. There is a dome WITH grass, not turf. There is the best receiver in football. There is an offense that uses a lot of the same ideas as he likes to run. There is a good, young defense. The coaching staff is respected and has had success and has allowed a star QB to have input in game planning. The Cards really are the perfect match and if he doesn't end up here, it will be a shame.