Peyton Manning said Wednesday that he hadn’t started thinking about his next team before officially being released by the Colts, but a report from Adam Schefter of ESPN makes it seem like someone in his camp has been looking ahead.
Schefter reports that Manning will pick his 2012 team within the next week and that he has a preference to remain in the AFC over heading to the NFC. Both make a lot of sense.
Choosing a new home quickly would allow the chosen team to figure out the cap implications in time to jump into free agency without losing out on potential targets while waiting for Manning to decide. If there’s a need to massage the roster to create cap room or to make a move involving a quarterback presently on the roster, it can be done swiftly with an eye toward making other moves to bolster the roster around Manning. The only rub to that scenario is that Manning still needs to show teams how well he can throw.
As of now, there are now known workouts scheduled with any teams interested in making a play for Manning nor is there an open workout for any and all teams to attend. It’s hard to imagine any team making a deal with Manning based only of off the video from Duke or secondhand reports about his fitness. This issue can be taken care of quickly, though, and, assuming Manning can throw well, it wouldn’t take long to go from workout to contract if Manning is dead set on playing for that team.
The AFC over NFC preference makes sense from the standpoint of Manning’s familiarity with the conference as well as the fact that there appear to be more teams in the AFC that could thrust themselves into contention by acquiring a healthy and productive Manning. With the 49ers remaining steadfast in their commitment to Alex Smith, the other NFC teams thought to be in the mix would still have to deal with a strong group of contenders returning more or less intact. The AFC has good teams too, of course, but a Manning acquisition might do more to swing the balance of power on that side.