Peyton Manning, one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history may not be returning to Indianapolis next season. Manning has played for the Indianapolis Colts for his entire career, however that may change next season due to financial concerns for the Colts, and Manning’s health which may not be 100% come time for pre-season games. On March 8th, Manning is due 28 million dollars, which gives the Colts less time than they want to decide on whether to keep Manning, trade him, or release him to the free agent market.
Manning missed the entire 2011 NFL season due to neck injuries and a setback from neck surgery. Manning has had multiple neck surgeries in the last year. Manning was poised to possibly play later in the season, however Manning was officially declared out for the season by the Colts in September. The 2011 season for the Colts without Peyton was a difficult one too. The Colts were on pace to go 0-16 until week 15, where they began a two game winning streak. The Colts went 2-14 and had one of the worst offenses in the NFL. The team definitely missed their Super Bowl Champion, Super Bowl MVP, eleven time Pro-Bowl, and five time All-Pro quarterback. However, despite his career accomplishments, Manning may have his job taken by a rookie.
The Colts have the first overall pick in the NFL draft and it is very likely that they will draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck. Manning would be a great mentor to the young quarterback, or any other quarterback the Colts may draft, but is his advice worth the 28 million dollars due in March, plus his high salary of about 18 million dollars. Manning signed a 5-year, 90 million dollars on July 30th, 2011.
So the question is, where will Peyton play in the 2012 season? Well there are a few teams that could use a veteran quarterback. Among them are the Arizona Cardinals, Miami Dolphins, and the Washington Redskins. The best fit for Manning is the Cardinals. Arizona signed Kevin Kolb to a big contact, however Kolb did not have a good season and was plagued with injuries. This led to the Cardinals relying on backup Drew Skelton who struggled as well. The Cardinals finished the season 8-8, but they could have won more. If Peyton were to play in Arizona, he could have a season similar to that of Tom Brady and Randy Moss in 2007, except with Larry Fitzgerald. Manning would also have early Doucet and Andre Roberts, as well as tight end Todd Heap to throw to. Washington and Miami are both OK fits, but not nearly as good of a fit as Arizona. The only way Peyton can stay in Indianapolis is if he can prove to the Colts that he is healthy and is in the physical condition to play back to the level he was at before he was injured.
It can still be said that Peyton Manning is a great NFL quarterback, but it is unlikely he will play like he did a few years ago. Unless he ends up with an AFC East team, or stays in Indianapolis, his rivalry with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is over. However Peyton can still win games, and with the right team even a Super Bowl.