Reporting Tim Kephart
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As Miami Dolphins fans begin to dream about number 18 throwing touchdown passes for the Fins, the competition to land Peyton Manning will be fierce among several teams.
Five teams are likely to go the hardest after Manning: the Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Seattle Seahawks, and Arizona Cardinals. Each team has something to offer Manning, while several have big drawbacks as well.
The Seattle Seahawks could arguably offer Manning the most money. The Seahawks are owned by Paul Allen, the richest owner in the NFL, and have enough cap room to offer Manning a handsome salary.
Seattle also offers a young offensive line, a beast of a running back in Marshawn Lynch, and an improving defense. But, Seattle doesn’t have any receivers to speak of and the offensive line has been injured as much as its been healthy.
Plus, Seattle is an awful long way away from the spotlight that Manning would command in any of the other cities.
Arizona would be an intriguing prospect for Manning. The Cardinals play in a dome like the Colts did and have arguably the best receiver in football in Larry Fitzgerald. The Cards defense is also showing some signs of improvement, though its not at the level of some of the other Manning suitors.
But the Cardinals biggest problem, and has been for years, is the lack of an offensive line. The Cards wasted a number five pick a few years ago on Penn State offensive tackle Levi Brown and he’s likely to be released soon due to poor play versus inflated pay.
So, the Cards would have to try to quickly build up an offensive line around Manning in order to keep him healthy through a 16 game schedule. As has been proven many times in the past, organizing a solid offensive line in a hurry is almost never possible.
The New York Jets appear to be exiting the Manning sweepstakes, but they can’t be counted out. The New York Post jumped on the story Wednesday with a headline that simply said, “GET HIM!”
According to multiple reports, the Jets are split over whether to pursue Manning. The team already has committed a lot of money to quarterback Mark Sanchez and he has had them on the cusp of getting to the Super Bowl twice in his young career.
Manning would have a good offensive line in New York, plus a coach who loves to run the football. The defense in New York will always be decent, but that’s as far as it goes before Manning’s possibility of signing with the Jets gets rocky.
Peyton would be walking into New York to do battle each week with his brother, Eli. The younger Manning has already won two Super Bowls for the city and is essentially the Manning in Gotham. Would Peyton want to play second fiddle to his brother in the city that never sleeps?
Plus, Manning would walk into a quarterback controversy in New York as some would still want to see what the team has in Sanchez. But an ever bigger problem for Manning would be who he would throw to for the Jets?
The Jets roster doesn’t have a solid receiver, and arguably the team’s best receiver is tight end Dustin Keller. The Jets do have Santonio Holmes, but given his petulance, that might be a bigger negative than positive.
The Washington Redskins have been a mess ever since owner Dan Snyder bought the team several years ago and has tried to buy a Super Bowl title ever since. Washington may offer the most money, but it also offer the worst team of the bunch.
The Skins have no offensive line to speak of, no running game, the leading receiver is Santana Moss, and the defense was just above average last season. Needless to say, despite having plenty of money, the Redskins may be a long shot at best to acquire Manning.
That brings up the Miami Dolphins. It goes without saying that the Fins have been desperate for a quarterback ever since Dan Marino walked off the field at Sun Life Stadium for the final time.
Manning owns a home in South Florida already. There are no state income taxes for players who sign in the state of Florida. Plus, the Dolphins play at Indianapolis in 2012 along with playing Tom Brady and the Patriots twice and the Jets twice.
As for the Fins roster, it has the most talent available out of the teams pursuing Manning. The Fins have a playmaker at receiver, Brandon Marshall, a gamebreaker at running back, Reggie Bush, and an elite left tackle in Jake Long plus a rapidly improving offensive line.
If Manning chose the Fins, the team could also offer a contract to wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who has been Manning’s favorite target for years in Indianapolis. Manning would then have Marshall, Wayne, Bess, and Hartline to throw to in Miami.
Additionally, the Fins could trade down a few spots in the draft, acquire another pick or two, and still draft an elite offensive tackle to plug in on the right side and possibly go after a pass receiving tight end in the second or third round.
But, this is a Fins team that has been through the wringer when it comes to bad management in the NFL. Manning may not want to come to a team that has had as many questions raised about management as the Fins have in the past two years.
Each team offers Manning plenty of reasons to sign and not to sign. Teams will want to move fast to get Manning under contract possibly before March 13, when unrestricted free agency begins.
If a team can get him under contract before then, it would help the team know exactly what it could spend in free agency on each position. One team’s fans will be extremely happy in the coming days, but where the Manning stops isn’t known at this point.