Will Peyton Keep Playing?

By Alex Norman

 

Let’s put aside the allegations of HGH use by Al Jazeera.

Let’s forget about the disputed details of an incident from 1996 in the Tennessee training room.

Let’s just talk about football, and whether or not Peyton Manning will be on an NFL roster this fall.

Yes, an article about the actual athletic part of sports regarding Peyton Manning. I’m not sure any of us are actually ready for this, but we will do our best.

When the clock struck zero in Santa Clara, Manning’s Denver Broncos had dispatched the Carolina Panthers, giving Manning his second Super Bowl title.  He joined an exclusive list of only 12 quarterbacks to win multiple Super Bowls.

The irony of course, was that 2015 was Manning’s worst season as a professional, yet it ended with a Lombardi Trophy.  Perhaps that is fitting, since so many of those great Colts and Broncos teams led by Manning didn’t close the deal.  The football gods smiled on Manning this time.

In 2015 Manning missed 6 weeks due to injury.  His arm strength isn’t there anymore.  Come fall he will be 40 years old, and as we have all learned, time waits for no one.

He has the MVP awards, he has the records, and he has the Pro Bowl selections.  And he had the perfect ending.  Joining John Elway, Jerome Bettis, Michael Strahan as Hall of Famers whose final game was a victory in the Super Bowl.

Except that this might not be Peyton Manning’s last game.

The scuttlebutt is that Manning isn’t exactly enthusiastic about his playing career being over. He’s considering playing in 2016.

If that is the case, it certainly won’t be in Denver.  Manning’s base salary in 2016 is $19 million.  There is no way that the Broncos are going to want to cut that kind of check for a quarterback whose best days are certainly behind him.  The Broncos also have Brock Osweiler as the heir apparent to Manning.

Osweiler played very well when Manning was on the shelf in 2015.  The Broncos certainly don’t get home field advantage without Osweiler righting the ship.  The Broncos went 4-2 in games that Osweiler played the whole way.  Denver doesn’t get home field advantage in the AFC playoffs without those wins, and even with that great defense, I doubt they beat the Patriots in Foxborough in January.

Free agency starts on Tuesday the 8th, and the Broncos don’t want to lose Osweiler.  He is the future of the Denver Broncos and Peyton Manning is the past.

So if Manning wants to keep playing, and the Broncos aren’t going to pay him, where could he end up?

Well, it certainly won’t be with the Tennessee Titans, no matter how much Vols fans want that to happen.  The Titans have Marcus Mariota as the future of that franchise.  Manning isn’t going to want to go to Cleveland, no matter how good a relationship he has with the Haslam family.  Manning would take a beating.

As bad as quarterback play is in the NFL, many teams still have “their guy.”

The two obvious landing spots for Manning are Los Angeles and Houston.  Let’s start with the Rams.  They are new in town and want to make a splash.  Why not have one of the greatest quarterbacks ever at the helm?  They have a solid defense and a very good running game.  And Manning with a broken throwing arm is still better than Nick Foles or Case Keenum.

As per the Texans, people forget this was an AFC playoff team last year despite having Brian Hoyer, Brandon Weeden, Ryan Mallett and T.J. Yates start games for them at quarterback.  Put a healthier Manning under center, a Manning that realizes you can win big as a “caretaker” QB, and maybe that gets them over the hump.

Manning wouldn’t go someplace he didn’t think he could win.  Those two teams at least have a shot.

I still think Manning is going to retire and I hope he does.  There is way too much “Joe Namath in LA, Johnny Unitas in San Diego” potential here.

But it he decides he wants to lace up the cleats one more time?  Houston or Los Angeles will be the places most likely for it to happen.

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