Hot Topic: Manning On The Market

Posted by Mike Wobschall on March 7, 2012 – 7:35 am

There’s no way to avoid this discussion today, so I thought we’d discuss it right away here on the Blog and then let the chips fall where they may. It’s expected that the Indianapolis Colts and QB Peyton Manning will officially part ways on Wednesday, which means one of the greatest QBs in this era and perhaps in NFL history will hit the street as an unrestricted free agent.

And that means many Vikings fans will want the Vikings to be in on the bidding for Manning, while other Vikings fans will insist the Vikings stay out of the bidding.

Before we get into that, let’s make sure everyone is on the same page as to how the Colts and Manning got to this point. It’s a long and complex story, but here are three basic reasons Manning is being released today: 1) a complicated and severe series of neck injuries and, consequently, surgeries eventually cost Manning all of the 2011 season and now has some wondering if Manning will ever play at or near the level he once did; 2) on July 30, 2011, the Colts signed Manning to a 5-year, $90 million contract that called for a $28 million bonus this week, which the Colts weren’t willing to pay given Manning’s pending recovery from the neck injury; 3) the Colts currently hold the rights to the #1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and they’re expected to use it on QB Andrew Luck.

So the question of the day here becomes, should the Vikings be in play for Manning? As I typically do in matters such as this, I’ll qualify my opinion by saying I don’t know what the Vikings intend to do and I also reserve the right to alter my opinion if new information comes my way. Ultimately, though, as curious as I’d be to see Manning follow his father, Archie, to Minnesota for a late-career stint with the Vikings, I’m not sure it’d be in the best long-term interests of the Vikings and I don’t think it’d be in the best short-term interests of Manning. Ultimately, I don’t think the Vikings will be in the bidding.

If we rewind back to the 2009 offseason, a Vikings-Manning union might make more sense, just as it made sense for the Vikings and Favre to unite. At that point, the Vikings were a defending division champion looking for a QB to put them over the hump. That’s exactly what Favre did for the Vikings. This time around, though, the Vikings are 3-13 and are a franchise in transition. Rick Spielman has the task of rebuilding this roster, and a significant part of that rebuilding project is developing Christian Ponder – or at least figuring out if Ponder can be developed – into a franchise-caliber QB.

Even if you can get past all of that and still want the Vikings to pursue Manning, I’m also not convinced the Vikings could acquire Manning and also address other needs on the roster while staying under the salary cap. Vikings VP of Football Operations Rob Brzezinski is as good as it gets at managing the cap and finding room to sign important players, but massaging the cap in a way that will allow the team to sign Manning will probably not result in a sound long-term salary cap plan. The Vikings are getting out of a salary cap squeeze that was the product of going “all-in” with Favre in 2009-10, so I don’t think we want to see the Vikings jump right back into another one of those situations with a QB who will be 36 years old when the 2012 season starts, is recovering from a severe neck injury that cost him all of 2011, and may never return to that elite level because of the injury.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m rooting for Manning to make it back. He’s one of the best QBs in NFL history and I want to see him retire someday healthy and playing well. And if the Vikings shock me and sign him, I’ll be all-in on the decision and will be anxious to see how it plays out. But as of right now, I don’t see a union between Manning and the Vikings. A few teams to watch in this are Cleveland, Kansas City, Miami, the NY Jets, Seattle and Washington. But my guess, as of right now, is that the Arizona Cardinals will win the Manning sweepstakes. We’ll see what happens, should be fun to watch.

What do you think, Vikings fans? Should the Vikings pursue Manning? Where do you think he’ll sign?

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