We were ahead of the curve on this post last week, so we’re updating it to generate some more discussion.
With the combine in the rearview mirror, the story of early March is going to be about what is sure to be the most coveted free agent in NFL history – Peyton Manning.
The Colts have decided to release Manning and will undoubtedly be replaced in Indianapolis by Andrew Luck. Luck will have a tall task ahead of him. Not only is he going to be asked to replace a legend, he’ll also likely be without both Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon.
As far as Peyton goes, he’s going to be an elite quarterback wherever he plays. Simply put, greatness will transcend any situation.
When Manning is on the free agent market and teams deem him to be healthy enough to play, there will be no shortage of suitors. Let’s take a look at some of the most likely destinations for Peyton and consider the impact it would have in dynasty leagues.
Miami would certainly be one of the first teams in line to talk to Manning when he becomes available. Brandon Marshall has been quietly poking a stick at the front office to bring in a solid signal caller in replacement of Matt Moore and Chad Henne.
Having Manning in South Beach would be a boost to the short term value of Marshall, but also to Davone Bess, Anthony Fasano (if he restructures his deal), Brian Hartline, Charles Clay and Clyde Gates.
Outside of Marshall, The biggest beneficiary of having Manning sign in Miami could be Reggie Bush. Defenses would have no choice but to respect the pass more and that could leave some running lanes for Bush and Daniel Thomas. In addition, Bush could really benefit from the inevitable screen passes and check downs that would come with Manning at the helm.
If Manning was to play in Miami, Brandon Marshall would reclaim consideration as a legit WR1 (assuming he keeps his head on straight) and all the other skill players would get a nice little uptick in value.
The Redskins may be in the most dire of situations when it comes to quarterbacks. There’s little doubt that Mike Shanahan will be knocking on Peyton’s door as soon as he’s released. Shanny was on record about putting his career on the line when he went with Rex Grossman and John Beck last year. There’s little doubt he’s desperate to put that in the past and quickly make people forget that little quote ever happened.
There are serious questions about how Shanahan and Manning would co-exist, but let’s just assume Manning would have free reign over the offense if they sign him. After all, wouldn’t that really be a prerequisite for him even going there?
Manning’s presence in D.C. would give them what they hoped they were getting in Donovan McNabb – an elite veteran who makes everyone around him better. Those players would include Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, Anthony Armstrong and Leonard Hankerson.
The biggest beneficiaries of having Manning around next year in Washington could be Fred Davis and Roy Helu. Davis is a forgotten man in many dynasty circles after being suspended last year, but Chris Cooley isn’t expected to be back, making Davis a great “buy low” candidate this offseason. With Manning, his value would skyrocket to borderline TE1 status. As far as Helu goes, he’s a very talented pass catcher. Having Peyton at quarterback would do nothing but feature that unique ability.
Of course, Mike Shanahan will probably trade back in the draft and take Trent Richardson or sign a free agent running back just to prove he hates you and anyone who plays fantasy football.
Owners of Larry Fitzgerald have to be crossing their collective fingers that Manning finds his way to the desert. With Kevin Kolb struggling badly last year and John Skelton not looking like a long term answer, the Cardinals have to kick the tires on Manning when he’s let go. Releasing Kolb would be a major kick to the stomach considering what they let go, but getting Manning would be a nice bit of antacid to relieve that pain.
If Manning was to sign with Arizona, Fitzgerald would again have the chance to lead all of fantasy in scoring at the receiver position. In addition, you’d have to love the prospects of Andre Roberts and even hope for a nice resurgence from Todd Heap. I’d also keep my eyes on DeMarco Sampson as a nice sleeper candidate.
The value of Beanie Wells would likely be pretty neutral in this scenario. He may find some more room to run, but likely wouldn’t get the same pass catching opportunities as someone like Reggie Bush or Roy Helu would. You could make the case that Arizona will likely be in the red zone more, though. If Ryan Williams comes back strong, the running back position would get interesting in a hurry – Wells isn’t exactly Peyton’s kind of running back.
Arizona, Washington and Miami seem to be the most likely of destinations for Manning, but don’t rule out teams like Minnesota, Seattle, Jacksonville, Buffalo, Tennessee, the New York Jets or Kansas City. The Browns could even be in the mix if they don’t trade up for Robert Griffin III as expected.
With Manning, you have to expect he goes to a contender, which would rule out the Chiefs, Jags or Browns most likely.
Dynasty owners would have to hope for short term greatness season by season here, knowing Manning’s career could end rather abruptly if he gets injured again. At best, Peyton would likely have two or three more seasons left in him. At this point, you would have to compare this situation to that of Brett Favre’s in the recent past – you’re not going to know what to expect year to year, but you know if he plays, he can win you games by himself, regardless of where he’s playing.
In dynasty leagues, all eyes will soon be focused on Peyton and the whirlwind of tours he’s about to embark on. While the long term impact of his future decision will have more of a negative impact on some player’s long term dynasty value (Matt Moore, Kevin Kolb, Mark Sanchez, etc.), the short term burst of value he could give to his new teammates could be just the boost you could need to win a dynasty league title. Regardless of which team he ends up with, the dynasty landscape is about to change in a very serious and dramatic way.
So, where do you want to see Manning end up and why?