Well, the long-expected deed is done. The Indianapolis Colts have severed ties with Peyton Manning, the quarterback who made the franchise relevant again and changed the sports landscape in basketball-obsessed Indiana. Gentlemen, start your checkbooks. One of the greatest QBs of all time is up for bids.
The weeks leading up to the NFL draft will get a whole lot more interesting now that Manning officially has been added to the equation. And they already were riveting because of the speculation surrounding the second pick and which team might trade up to take Robert Griffin III, the Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor. Now Manning is out there, Griffin is out there and some other intriguing possibilities (Matt Flynn, Kyle Orton, Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill) also are out there. And here's the thing: You could make a decent argument for any of them, depending on how much cap room you have, how well positioned you are in the draft and how close you are to contending.
But you also could make a decent argument against any of them. Manning, after all, has had several neck surgeries and still isn't 100 percent. RG3, Flynn and Tannehill, meanwhile, are unproven. As for Orton, he's put up some numbers, but he doesn't quicken anybody's pulse. It's your classic risk-reward situation. Some clubs probably will hit it big on a quarterback, and some will get badly burned.
It would be nice if the Washington Redskins were in more control of their destiny, but there are just too many variables, too many other clubs in need of a QB. What you have, basically, are two timetables colliding: the St. Louis Rams' timetable for trading the second pick and Manning's much more uncertain timetable for regaining the strength in his arm and the ability to play at a high level. What if, when the Rams are ready to do the deal, there still are questions about Peyton? Do you switch gears and make a stronger play for Griffin, or do you roll the dice with No. 18 — and draft another quarterback for insurance? See how complicated it can get?
Besides, Manning is in a position to pick and choose. It may not matter what the Redskins want. They could throw the most money at him, promise to surround him with familiar faces such as Reggie Wayne, offer to tailor the offense to his specifications, and it still might not be enough. He might not think the Redskins are near enough to a championship. Or he might not want to play in the same division with brother Eli. Or he might have doubts about a franchise that has struggled for almost 20 years — and an owner who, too often, has been his own worst enemy. Peyton Manning isn't a player Dan Snyder can just buy.
In a perfect Redskins world, Manning would have a complete recovery, he'd do in Washington what Y.A. Tittle did in New York at the end of his Hall of Fame career (three title games in three years, multiple MVP awards), and he'd give Mike Shanahan time to groom a successor, one who would keep the team in contention for another decade.
But "perfect" and "Redskins" rarely are seen in the same sentence these days. A much more realistic — and from my standpoint, advisable — scenario is that the Redskins jump into the RG3 pile with both cleats and see if they can possibly secure the second pick without chopping off too many of their limbs. Everybody got carried away with Griffin's 40 time and vertical jump at the combine, but that's not what's most exciting about him. What's most exciting is that, along with being a tremendous physical talent, he's an extremely accurate passer. I mean, it's great to be able to run a 4.38 or to leap 39 inches, but it's hardly a prerequisite for a franchise quarterback (as Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees have shown).
At any rate, this NFL offseason promises to make up for the one we missed last year, when the owners and players were arm wrestling over money. Peyton Manning is in play — and Redskins One, you can be sure, is gassed up and ready to go. Let the groveling begin.
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