More than four weeks ago, a report emerged that the Rams were considering the possibility of making a run at quarterback Peyton Manning. Since then, there has been no further chatter about the Rams pursuing Peyton. Or, for that matter, anyone else.
Four years ago, when Manning last was a free agent following four neck surgeries, the teams were lining up for a change to sign him. (Or, as the 49ers clumsily insisted at the time, simply to “evaluate” him.) Now, as it becomes more inevitable that Manning hasn’t closed the door on playing but the Broncos have closed the door on Manning playing for them, there’s nothing. Not a whisper. Not a hint. Not even a reporter offering up under the guise of astute speculation a theory that has been leaked directly and deliberately by Camp Manning.
Even as Manning repeatedly speaks about his playing career in the present tense, there’s no indication that anyone wants him. No rumors. No trial balloons. No naysaying executives or coaches with a team that is deliberating the possibility blabbing in the hopes of provoking the fans or media to shout it down.
The Rams continue to be the most logical option, for now. They have most of the pieces to contend, and quarterback continues to be the most glaring weakness. But would Peyton, who is notoriously a creature of habit, want to play for a team that is embarking on a three-year stint as football vagabonds?
Things will get interesting in Denver if Brock Osweiler doesn’t re-sign. At that point, the Broncos would have to decide between bringing in a new quarterback entirely or figuring out a way to lure Peyton back after cutting him in the coming days.
The only other remotely intriguing possibility, pending further developments, would be to join Eli in New York, as the quarterback of the Jets. But with an army of media covering the team, if the Jets had any interest at all, someone would have said something by now.
Peyton’s best bet, if he truly wants to play (and it sure seems like he does), could be to stay in shape and wait for someone to get injured. Two years ago, he could have joined the Cardinals for a playoff push. Last year, the Cowboys surely would have come calling late in the year — and maybe even the Colts.
Injuries are inevitable. If the right team has the wrong injury at the perfect time, Peyton could pull a Roger Clemens and return to the game healthy, rested, and ready to do just enough to help an otherwise contending team become a champion.
Ultimately, that may be his only option after he becomes a free agent for the second time in his career.