Peyton Manning is Indianapolis... but maybe not for much longer
Indy facing once-in-a-lifetime decision
At the start of November I discussed the conundrum facing Indianapolis - it’s idealistic to believe Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck can co-exist on the same roster. Sure, it worked perfectly for Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers, but Rodgers wasn’t the #1 overall pick and a storied college quarterback seen by many to be nearly flawless. This week we’ve seen Archie Manning state the obvious over this situation, with Mike Florio at PFT basically summing it up in this piece. Something has to give.
Luck won’t want to ride the bench for 2-3 years. He probably won’t want to ride the bench for one year. Manning doesn’t want to spend his final years at a franchise he made relevant looking over his shoulder. The Colts would like a seamless transition, but they also have reasons to choose go solely in one direction. They’re not going to be able to trade Manning before he’s owed close to $30m, because the contract clause kicks in before the league year ends. They’re not going to pay all that money, then trade Manning. It’ll work out being more than $50m for one season where Manning didn’t play a down.
They’re faced with the highest rated college quarterback in decades being there on a plate. Standing by Manning may be painfully impossible. Do you take potentially 10-15 years of Luck, or 3-4 years of Manning? Cutting Manning and making him a highly desirable free agent could not only cause shock waves across the league, it could also severely impact the draft.
I’m not convinced the Seahawks would be interested in an ageing free agent Manning, considering how much they’ve turned this team into a youth movement. It’d be the ultimate short term measure if Manning proves he’s healthy, allowing the Seahawks time to develop a long term replacement in the background. At the same time, it’s a move I just can’t envisage even if a healthy Manning could potentially turn the team into a real force in the NFC. Just ask yourself for a second whether you can imagine Manning in Seahawks blue, because I’m struggling to create that image.
Washington? Miami? Perhaps that’s a different story. You have to believe Dan Snyder would love to land a big name like Manning to make the Redskins an immediate contender in the NFC East (not to mention the two Manning vs Manning games per year would be interesting). The Dolphins need to sell tickets and as appealing as the two Manning’s facing off would be, maintaining the Brady vs Manning battle in the AFC East is another great storyline. If either were to sign Manning, they’d be less likely to take a quarterback early in round one.
That could impact the Seahawks, whether it creates another potential trade partner or simply sees a player sink down to the middle of round one where the Seahawks project to be picking.
We also can’t rule out Team Luck forcing a trade. Indianapolis has shown what life after Manning looks like, and it’s downright ugly. This is looking increasingly like a roster that will go 0-16 without their quarterback/offensive coordinator/heartbeat. However well Luck grades in college – and he’s been hyped beyond reality – he still isn’t anywhere close to being Peyton Manning. He could walk into a situation where not only does he have to try and lift a bad team in a tough division, but he has to live with being the guy the Colts cut Peyton Manning for. It’s not a stretch to imagine Luck won’t want any part of that. Life would be much easier if he joined a team not quite as bad as Indianapolis, without any recent history at quarterback.
Washington, Cleveland, Seattle, Denver, San Francisco, Miami – all places that would appear to be more logical fits. Of the group, Cleveland has the most ammunition for a trade with Indianapolis. Even so, if the Colts open trade discussions you have to believe several teams will pull out all the stops to make a deal.
Yet there’s still one more interesting dynamic here. Indy would have to cut Manning long before the draft. The moment they commit that guaranteed money, they lose an awful lot of leverage if they want to trade ther #1 pick. If the Lucks are going to force a deal and avoid Indianapolis, they’ll have to do so possibly one or two months before the draft takes place. That could create a never-before-seen auction involving picks and players. It sounds like a stretch, but this could be a unique situation. None of this will be possible once Indianapolis cuts Manning, so if a deal happens it’ll probably take place long before April.
This could be unknown territory for the NFL, but that’s hardly surprising given the circumstance. When has a team with a quarterback like Manning, a perennial contender for years, slumped this badly? Particularly in a year with such a coveted quarterback available with the #1 pick? It shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s a level of unknown here.
Matt Kalil staying or going?
A report surfaced today courtesy of Rob Rang suggesting Matt Kalil was expected to return to USC for his senior season. Kalil later responded, stating firmly he wasn’t close to making a decision. It’s long been assumed that Kalil will declare, but USC’s success late in the season (including big wins vs Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA) could have changed things. Suddenly this looks like a USC team capable of challenging for it all, with talent continuing to surface despite recruiting sanctions and a lack of national publicity. Even a month ago, people thought USC were a good team – but not quite as good as they’ve since become. What’s more, there appears to be further room to grow. Should Kalil and Barkley return next year, USC would have an opportunity to at least win the PAC-12 and earn a Rose Bowl berth. Both will be top-ten picks next April, but that could be the case in 2013 too. They’ll only have one more chance to play in a BCS Bowl.
On the other hand, there’s no doubt both players are ready to play pro-football. Kalil and Barkley will start during their rookie seasons and probably have an instant impact. Staying at USC will be delaying the inevitable and while it’d be a great story to stay in school, there are potentially other great stories to be written in the NFL.
I suspect both players will be leaning on each other here. There’s little point Kalil returning to block for a new quarterback who will need to be worked into the system. Barkley would be taking a risk returning to college without his high quality blind-side blocker. So what happens? The fact is neither player needs to make a decision in the next four weeks, so I suspect they’ll use that time wisely to make the best possible decision. Don’t expect anything to be confirmed for a while yet.
Mel Kiper FINALLY drops Landry Jones
I have a lot of time for Mel Kiper, he’s pure draft entertainment. Having said that, I disagree with pretty much everything he says about quarterbacks. He had Jimmy Clausen as a top first round pick. He touted Dan Le Fevour as a potential first or second round sleeper. He kept Colt McCoy in his top-25 big board every week throughout the 2009 season. That’s not a great run over the last few years.
This year he kept Landry Jones as the #2 quarterback on his board after Andrew Luck. He wasn’t the only one, several other high profile pundits have been promoting Jones as a high first rounder. Finally – and it’s taken until the 8th December – Kiper has dropped Jones behind both Matt Barkley and Robert Griffin III in his rankings. I’ve never graded the Oklahoma QB as a first round pick, but his recent poor displays have convinced me further that he simply isn’t going to hack it in the NFL. That may be considered a harsh critique, but I go into more detail in this article here. You cannot invest a first round pick in this guy and expect to still be in a job a few years down the line. I’ve not included Jones in any of my first round mocks so far and I’m not even convinced he’ll declare now. It’s taken a while, but finally the big name draft pundits are catching up. Jones is not the elite talent they’ve tried to argue for most of this year.