The night before Peyton Manning’s retirement was announced, PFT posed a simple question: Is anyone preparing to pursue his services? A day after Manning’s departure from the game was announced, Peter King of TheMMQB.com reports that there was only one team that was “mildly interested” in Manning.
King explains that the Rams had not yet had a serious internal discussion about signing Manning, and that the Rams wouldn’t have guaranteed Manning the starting job. So he could have eventually lost the starting job to Case Keenum or to Nick Foles or to someone else.
Of course, Manning may have had zero interest in joining the vagabond circus that the Rams will be over the next three years, criss-crossing the L.A. area for offseason workouts, training camp, practices, and games.
King also suggests that the Texans possibly would have been interested, but remember this: Four years ago, when teams were lining up for a crack at Manning, the Texans weren’t interested. (King includes Houston in a list of teams that were chasing Peyton in 2012; PFT has consistently heard over the last four years that the Texans were the one team in which Manning had interest that was not reciprocated.)
Others in the media believe that Manning would have found a new home for 2016 if he’d truly wanted one, given the poor quality of quarterback play in the NFL. But Manning’s play was closer than poor to stellar for most of 2015, due in large part to an accumulation of injuries that a 39-year-old body can’t sufficiently recover from in the seven-day window before new injuries are inflicted.
So, basically, Manning’s spirit is willing, his flesh is weak (relatively speaking), and the NFL generally knows it.
This doesn’t mean that a contending team that loses its starter in November or December won’t dial up a fresh-and-rested Peyton, offering him an opportunity to join the effort for a shot at the quarterback equivalent of Brandon Browner’s back-to-back titles with two different teams.
If Manning has any remote interest in that possibility, he should ask the Broncos now to process his departure as the termination of his contract. If he’s placed on the reserve/retired list and if he is later released after the trade deadline, another team could disrupt the plan by claiming his rights on waivers. While that team would need to be in position to carry the prorated portion of Manning’s $19 million base salary for 2016, it’s a loose end that the ultra-prepared Manning wouldn’t want to have hanging around, if he wants to leave the door open for a potential return during the coming season.
Manning surely will be asked that question and many others at his retirement press conference on Monday. Whether the answers provide an accurate and candid glimpse into his mindset will be a different issue.