MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Call it Mannageddon, the Pursuit of Peyton, Peyton’s Place, or any other number of things, but business surrounding quarterback Peyton Manning is about to pick up in a big way after he was released by the Indianapolis Colts Wednesday.
Peyton is in Miami after landing at Opa-locka Airport shortly before 4 p.m. He’s not expected to sign, but he is in Miami for what it’s worth.
“It’s been an emotional day for me,” said Manning, “just a unique day for me spending time with my colts organization had a great visit with a lot of our staff after that.”
He wasted no time getting to South Florida. He arrived less than four hours after wrapping up a press conference in Indianapolis. After landing, Manning got into a black van. From there, it was a race to catch up with the quarterback. We watched the van weave in and out of rush hour traffic headed toward South Beach.
Manning owns property in Miami, so he’s likely in town to get away from the hubbub surrounding his release and gather his thoughts as he hits free agency.
After a couple of hours he pulled over to talk to the media. Manning insisted the speculation about the Dolphins is just that.
“I have no idea what teams are interested. My agent’s been getting calls since four clock today, since this started. I haven’t talked to him I literally just got off the plane and I’m ready to start back with my training again because that’s what I need to do.”
Manning says he came here because he owns a condo and often works out and trains here.
He said whatever team he plays for.. He’s ready to get back in the game “I know how much I love playing quarterback I love football and I want to go out and play again.
The race is now on to land arguably the biggest name to hit free agency since Reggie White. Manning’s departure from the Indianapolis Colts was his divorce from the only NFL team he’s ever known.
Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay appeared together at joint press conference Wednesday to discuss the release of Manning.
“In my heart and the hearts of the fans it’s unparalleled for the Colts,” Irsay said. “It’s a difficult day of shared pain between peyton, myself, the fans, everyone. I think in that vein as well, the 18 jersey will never be worn again by a Colt on the field.
Irsay discussed the difficulty in cutting Manning given what he has meant to not just the Colts.
“As difficult as this day is, it’s made difficult by the things Peyton has done for this city, this state, and this franchise,” Irsay said. “There will be no other Peyton Manning.”
Manning echoed the sentiment about it being incredibly difficult to leave the team.
“I’ve been a Colt for almost all of my entire life,” Peyton said. “But I guess in sports, like in life, nothing ever lasts forever.”
Manning took time to put the announcement of his release in perspective by talking about the victims of last week’s tornadoes. He also declined to say where he might play in the future.
“I haven’t thought a lot about where I’ll play,” Manning said. “I have truly been blessed. I’ve been blessed to play here. I’ve been blessed to play in the NFL.”
The Colts are going into full-fledged rebuilding mode and there simply isn’t room on the roster for a 36-year-old quarterback trying to rehab from a serious shoulder injury who’s also due a $28 million roster bonus by the end of the week.
Still, both Manning and Irsay said it wasn’t about the money in the end.
“The contract and the money was never a factor,” Manning said.
However, no one actually believes the divorce wasn’t about anything other than the money that Manning was owed.
Manning’s release brings to an end a career like no other in Colts history, and it will also start a bidding war the likes of which the NFL hasn’t seen in years.
Manning, a four-time NFL MVP, helped the Colts win the Super Bowl here in Miami in 2007. He started every meaningful game for 13 seasons, 227 straight including the playoffs, and changed the culture in Indianapolis from that of an average team, to a Super Bowl contender year in and year out.
In the two decades pre-dating his arrival, the Colts won 116 games, one division title and made the playoffs three times. With Manning taking snaps, the Colts have won 150 games, eight division titles, two AFC championships and the franchise’s first Super Bowl since moving from Baltimore in 1984.
Indy broke the league record for most regular-season wins in a decade (115), tied Dallas’ league record for most consecutive playoff appearances (nine) and the success changed Indy from a basketball town to an NFL town.
Manning is one of four players with more than 50,000 yards passing, one of three with more than 350 touchdown passes and one of two quarterbacks with more than 200 consecutive starts. The only non-active quarterback with a rating higher than Manning’s 94.9 is Hall of Famer Steve Young (96.8).
With all of that said, Manning’s career has dealt with neck injuries that date back to a hit he suffered at the hands of the Washington Redskins in 2005, according to then-Colts head coach Tony Dungy. The defensive coordinator of the Redskins at the time was Gregg Williams, who is likely to be suspended for offering bounties to knock out or injure opponents.
Manning has undergone multiple surgeries on his neck to repair a damaged nerve that was causing weakness in his throwing arm. The nerve didn’t heal as quickly and Manning had two vertebrae fused together. It’s still unknown exactly how strong Manning’s arm is right now.
Yet he has repeatedly insisted he plans to play football again next season.
“I still have some work to do [on my arm strength], but I’m looking forward to doing that work and keep making progress.”
The question is where might Manning land if he is no longer a Colt.
There are four teams with a legitimate shot at landing Manning once the release is made official at noon. Those teams are: the Miami Dolphins, Arizona Cardinals, Tennessee Titans, and New York Jets. Manning’s former longtime offensive coordinator Tom Moore did work with the Jets as a consultant less season.
Each team has its own advantages and disadvantages, but Vegas oddsmakers say the Dolphins are the most likely team to sign Manning if the salary cap issues can be bridged towards a manageable contract for both sides.
If Manning is signed by the Dolphins, it will be the biggest sports story to hit South Florida since LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined the Miami Heat in 2010.
Dolphins billionaire owner Stephen Ross has made it known in league circles that he’s going all in on signing Manning. Ross, who has never met a celebrity he didn’t like, has dreamed about signing Manning for awhile, and now has his opportunity.
It’s going to take some fancy salary cap management for the Dolphins to pull off signing Manning, but the Fins do have several things going for them in their pursuit of Manning.
Manning has a home in South Florida already, there’s no state income tax, the roster is ready made to get to the playoffs, and the Fins could also sign Manning’s go-to receiver Reggie Wayne, who played his college ball at the University of Miami.
But, all of it depends on the strength of Peyton’s arm. A short YouTube video appeared over the weekend purporting to show Manning throwing the football well at Duke, but it’s not been verified. The Colts haven’t seen Manning throw since last season.
So, the team that signs Manning may be doing so blindly. He’ll have to pass a team physical to make an NFL roster, but he’s vowed to play again and given his competitiveness, he likely will.
The only question is will the next team get the Manning who could put a team on his shoulders and win the game himself, or will it get a rental quarterback like Johnny Unitas with the Chargers at the end of his career.