Now the fun begins.
Peyton Manning is scheduled to be released by the Indianapolis Colts Wednesday, according to multiple internet reports. Manning and Colts owner Jim Irsay will hold a joint press conference to announce the move.
The four-time MVP, who has spent all 14 years of his NFL career in Indianapolis, was due a $28 million bonus by March 8. Manning underwent three neck surgeries in 19 months and missed the 2011 season, but his doctors have since cleared him to resume his career.
Manning was seen throwing at Duke University this past weekend. That video is extremely grainy, but sources told ESPN that his velocity has greatly improved.
Manning’s release is no surprise. The Colts hold the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft and made it clear early on they were interested in taking Stanford QB Andrew Luck there. Now, the speculation as to where Manning goes will intensify.
The leading candidates
Seattle: Tarvaris Jackson hasn’t shown he can be a full-time starter and the franchise’s patience is wearing thin. Adding Manning to a fairly young roster could be the perfect mix — and playing in the soft NFC West provides an easy path to the playoffs.
Washington: The Redskins are always going to be rumored to be interested in aging, once-great quarterbacks (see: Donovan McNabb most recently) based on their track record. Last season, Rex Grossman and John Beck combined for 24 picks.
NY Jets: Mark Sanchez isn’t the answer and the window seems to be closing on the aging Jets. Manning would also fuel a tabloid-style, drool-fest for the media, sharing a stadium with his little brother, Eli.
Miami: The Dolphins haven’t had a legit starter since Dan Marino and the city has posted billboards on the highway begging for Peyton Manning to come to South Beach. However, new coach Joe Philbin (formerly the Packers’ offensive coordinator) could make a run at free agent Matt Flynn, who backed Aaron Rodgers up.
Philadelphia: We’re going way out on a limb here, but the Philly talk radio lines have been abuzz in recent weeks about the possibilities of Manning running Andy Reid’s offense. Would they give up on reclamation project Mike Vick after one poor season? Probably not.