It seems as if half the NFL is going to make a play for Peyton Manning, and only he and his agent have a real insight into his plans. But like always, if people want to bet on it, Vegas will make a line for it, and in this case, Manning's destination make for an interesting prop bet.
Rather than blindly throwing your hard earned cash on your favorite team, there is some value in it if you carefully evaluate the most sensible and likely possibilities.
Obviously, any team would be lucky to have him under center but there will only be a small number of teams that meet the criteria necessary to sign him. That team must have a need for a QB, the necessary salary cap space (or ability/willingness to create it), the pieces in place to win a championship sooner rather than later (assuming Peyton is not in it for the money which I doubt), and be attractive to him aesthetically.
A number of teams will be in the running for Manning’s services. Let’s take a look at my three top options that offer some betting value. (All current odds via sportsbook.com as of this writing).
New York Jets +500 — Despite lots of opinions to the contrary, the Jets are actually a decent fit for Peyton. Let’s face it, Mark Sanchez is not the answer the Jets thought he would be. Manning could make them real contenders with the Patriots in the AFC East. Though there are some issues on the O-line, they have an established coach and system. They have enough tools on offense to make it work. They are in a big market, which would thrill Manning coming from small market Indianapolis. They have an owner and GM that would willingly create the cap space necessary to sign him. The fans would worship him. And then there’s the brother vs. brother factor that could play out on the biggest sports stage in the world. A marketing dream scenario for Peyton (and Eli).
Miami Dolphins +125 — The Dolphins make the most sense. They have a gigantic need at QB. They haven’t had a good one since Marino left so the fans would treat him like a king. Peyton has a condo on South Beach and spends a lot of time there during the offseason. He loves the weather and that could be a big factor for him, coming from the dome in Indy where bad weather isn’t an issue. Miami has a solid foundation at O-line, dynamic players in Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall on offense, and a solid defense in place. Also consider that his favorite target with the Colts, Reggie Wayne (who played college ball for “The U”) has already made it apparent that he’d love to follow Manning to Miami if that’s where he signs. A security blanket always helps.
Arizona Cardinals +350 — Believe it or not, this could be a match. The Cards need a QB desperately. Kevin Kolb stinks, period. Arizona fans have to be salivating at the thought of Manning throwing to arguably the league’s best WR in Larry Fitzgerald. This connection could be better than Manning/Harrison back in the day. Peyton has to like the idea of it too. Arizona’s plays in a dome, a comfort that Peyton won’t find in any of the other top suitors for his services. Arizona plays in a winnable division, despite San Francisco’s amazing 2011 season.
There are other teams that will certainly be in the mix (Washington at +800, Seattle at +800, Kansas City +600) but I see the above three teams as the clear front runners. If you like wagering on futures, and you have some extra coin, taking a shot on one of these three might not be a bad idea. And being that all three are currently listed at “plus money,” the return on investment is nice.