With the Broncos and coach John Fox engaging in the most recent NFL “mutual parting,” the biggest question moving forward is whether the Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning will have a “mutual parting,” too.
Manning, who abhors change, may not want to return — if he decides to keep playing. The Broncos, who may have only one more year with Manning anyway, may not want to pay Manning $19 million in 2015.
So what happens if Manning and the Broncos decide not to continue together but Manning decides to keep playing? Here’s a quick look at the teams that could be/should be interested, with the pros and cons for each location.
1. The Bills.
Pros: Potential championship-caliber defense, receiver Sammy Watkins, Rex Ryan at coach, deep-pocketed ownership that seems to be committed to winning, passionate fan base.
Cons: Direct competition with the Patriots and Tom Brady, possibly multiple bad-weather home games.
2. The Jets.
Pros: New York market, quality time with Eli, reunion with receiver Eric Decker.
Cons: Questionable talent at skill positions, ownership that may not be truly committed to spending big on free agents, direct competition with Patriots and Tom Brady, possibly multiple bad-weather home games.
3. The Browns.
Pros: Quality defense, good offensive line, possible opening for post-football executive role with Jimmy Haslam, a major Tennessee booster who is believed to be interested in working with Peyton.
Cons: Perception that Haslam meddles, tough division, uncertainty regarding Josh Gordon, possibly multiple bad-weather home games.
4. The Titans.
Pros: Return to Tennessee, possible opening for post-football executive role/ownership, presence of Ken Whisenhunt as head coach, weak division, twice-per-year meetings with the Colts.
Cons: Many talent deficiencies on both sides of the ball, strong likelihood of being unable to compete with the Colts.
5. The Texans.
Pros: Strong defense, sufficient offense, coach with direct ties to Bill Belichick who improved team from 2-14 to 9-7 in one year, weak division, twice-per-year meetings with the Colts, weather not an issue.
Cons: Team wasn’t interested in Manning three years ago (he was).
6. The Buccaneers.
Pros: Strong head coach in Lovie Smith and perception that cash-flush team will spend to improve, currently weak division, large, potent pass-catchers.
Cons: Offensive line issues, direct competition with Eli’s team for wild-card berths and playoff positioning.
7. The Cardinals.
Pros: Strong team on both sides of the ball, strong head coach in Bruce Arians, great receivers, possible Super Bowl-ready team that needs only a quarterback, weather not an issue.
Cons: Carson Palmer is under contract, direct competition with Eli’s team for wild-card berths and playoff positioning.
8. The Rams.
Pros: Great defense, improving offense, respected head coach in Jeff Fisher, domed stadium.
Cons: Tough division, uncertainty regarding future location of franchise, direct competition with Eli’s team for wild-card berths and playoff positioning.
Teams not making the list include the Bengals, 49ers, and Washington, primarily because each is likely committed to sticking with a far younger quarterback for at least one more year.
For Cincinnati and San Francisco, team-friendly long-term contracts with Andy Dalton and Colin Kaepernick, respectively, provide some flexibility, but it would be a shock if either team throws the current starter overboard for what could be a one-year stint with Manning, whose performance over the last month may have been less about injury and more about age.