Thursday draft thoughts: Peyton Manning to be cut?

December 8th, 2011 | Written by Rob Staton

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.

14 Responses to “Thursday draft thoughts: Peyton Manning to be cut?”

  1. SteadyHawk says:

    Rob,

    This is the best blog out there. Nice work. Now can you find a story that Barkley only wants to play for Seattle? Thanks in advance!

  2. JC says:

    I’ve always had the feeling (not voiced here) that at least one of the big named quaterbacks would stay in school. Robert Griffin I could see declaring regardless and maybe Landry Jones, if for no other reason then to get away from Bob Stoops. But Matt Barkley has matured from the entitled freshman and may want to lead the USC program back into the big time. As for Andrew Luck, he was all but handed the 1st overall pick before the end of his season but chose to say in school. I wonder if he just decides not to come out if he doesn’t like what he hears, at least in the media, out of Camp Colt and Manning.

  3. Mr Fish says:

    The Luck team forcing a trade, the way Eli *Manning* refused to play for the Chargers and John Elway refused to play for the *Colts*? Doubly ironic.

    Interesting wrinkle about the Colts having to commit to a decision on Manning long before the draft. That certainly does complicate things.

  4. Trenchtown says:

    You are missing the obvious Luck-Manning solution where both of them get what they want and both remain on the same team. The revolutionary new formation, the double barrel shotgun. Oh yeah, I’m going there. Not one, but two quarterbacks lined up in the backfield each offset by a half a step. Which quarterback gets the snap? You don’t know, and neither does the defense. Next, move Manning under center with Luck lined up a running back and Addai at full back, is it a run? a flea flicker? a hand-off into a “half back” pass? You are looking at the greatest innovation in football since the A-11 offense and it isn’t starting with a high school team. No, it is starting with a hall of fame quarterback and a number overall draft pick. Be afraid, the future is now.

  5. Colin says:

    The best thing for Seattle is for Manning to be cut. The Redskins and Dolphins, coincidentally led by ego driven owners, will fight over signing Manning. Seattle can trade up with Minnesota or maybe Carolina for a shot at Barkley or RG3.

    In my eyes, Seattle has to come away with one of those two.

  6. dave crockett says:

    Yeah, this is an interesting story. Something has to give with Manning and the Colts, and like you say, it’ll probably need to give sooner rather than later. And whatever happens, things could benefit Seattle.

    The simplest way is by removing a team potentially from the rookie QB pool, as you note, like Miami or Washington.

    Also, if the Colts stick with Manning and trade the rights to Luck to a Jacksonville or Washington they may be amenable to trading down again with Seattle.

  7. Peter says:

    Plus I’m not totally sure even with the draft capital that the Browns have that they will go QB. Going back to Steve Young, I believe Holmgren thinks he can “find,” QB’s and make them great. Even if they set sail on the McCoy Ship, I’m not totally sure that they would be willing to make a trade for Luck…..

    Though as I type this I’m starting to wonder if that’s the exact reason why they made that trade with Atlanta. Thinking if McCoy turns out amazing next (this) season, awesome for us. If not, We can literally get what ever QB we deem necessary, at whatever asking price and not have to feel it in the slightest…

  8. Doug says:

    Yes, I brought this up 2 days ago. Manning will finish his career in Seattle with a Superbowl win next year. Portis will learn the ropes as well and get in some “Wildcat” formations from which he will actually throw from. Rice, Tate and Baldwin will amass rediculous stats. Lynch and Richardson will both be 1000 yd rushers, Hawks will average 38 points a game, and the D will be on the field for less than 23 minutes per game.

    It’s going to be the biggest assembly of bandwaggoneers of all times, as new fans from all over the world revive a sagging Alaskan tourist industry, all anxious to have some smoked salmon.

    Joe Buck and Troy Aikman will publicly announce their love for each other and relocate to Ballard near the locks.

    This will be the best Seahawk season EVER!

  9. meat says:

    @doug – Fun post. We can only dream that something like that would happen let alone work! :)

  10. Jim J says:

    So the hawks will revive the old hidden ball trick – Where they play action handoff a smoked salmon football and then throw the real football for a touchdown?

  11. Jim Kelly says:

    Doug, I’d love to see that-minus the bandwagon fans, of course.

    Rob, I wish that Kiper hadn’t dropped Jones. It would be so freakin’ nice to see someone take him instead of Barkley.

  12. Jarhead says:

    Listen up, Sports Fans! Some cold reality is on the menu this morning. Anyone who watched the monday night game saw how absolutely basement floor awful Blaine Gabbert is. He is an irretrievable loss. A “sunk cost” as it were. Jacksonville is going to have a new owner and new coach, and Gabbert will not be part of the equation. What this means for Seattle: A new contender has arrived in the Top 3 arena. Jacksonville will be picking higher than Washington and Miami both, and I guarantee this coach will be jockeying to select his guy. Regardless that Gene Smith is returning as GM, he probably sees the gaff he made in trading up for Gabbert as well. So not only does Jacksonville have a better first round option for trading with Indy, that leaves only the Minnesota Vikings as a viable trade partner with us. So ouch for that one. Well that’s only if we want a shot a both of the other two QB’s who aren’t Luck that is. So I believe this new wrinkle in Jacksonville has doubly sealed our fate. God forbid we should trade with Jacksonville for Gabbert (who was number one on our board last year, and would essentially be the death nail in our coffins), but this situation definitely makes me think. And my final bit of NFL Conspiracy Theory: Jacksonville is the hometown of a very prominent and controversial QB who is having much success right now. And Jacksonville has a very high pick. So what would happen should a certain John Elway decide to trade Tim Tebow to his howetown Jacksonville Jaguars for Jacksonville’s first round pick? Elway gets his QB, Tebow goes home and Jacksonville can hand pick the Head Coach and guru to tutor the hometown hero in front of nearly packed audiences every Sunday. It may seem ridiculous now, but think about it. The Broncos have no loyalty to Tebow, and the new Jags owner would love the butts that Tebow would put in the seats. Hey, I’m sure stranger things have happend

  13. Doug says:

    Jarhead- Blain Gabbert is nowhere as bad as you think, and if we could get him via a trade I think we would be getting a good future QB. He is just in a difficult situation on a bad team. Dude has great skilz, but is playing a bit scared right now. He just needs to sit on the bench for a bit and learn the NFL the old fashioned way, instead of being thrust into the savior role on a crap team. He would look like a completely different QB on the Hawks. I would be elated to take on that “irretrievable loss”..

  14. Jarhead says:

    I disagree. Some have it, some don’t. I don’t believe Gabbert does. It wouldn’t be the first time that a player who may have seemed to be a translatable QB for the NFL didn’t pan out. He just reminds me too much of Kyle Boller and JP Losman. Lots of tools, but didn’t translate because of lack of courage and not being fit for the NFL. He should’ve made at least some small form of improvement after all the games he’s played, but it’s a stretch to find any really. Maybe it’s not the situation, the system, or a bad team, maybe it’s him. He’s got the NFL’s leading rusher, for that matter. I think he would be the same QB on the Seahawks. But that’s my opinion: the Jags just whiffed on him.