Experts see few downsides if Dolphins have chance to sign ManningAP File Photo
There is much discussion about where Peyton Manning will be playing football next year. Many believe Miami would be a good home for the star quarterback.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The way Herm Edwards sees it, there is a perfect landing place for Peyton Manning if the Indianapolis Colts cut their quarterback before paying him a $28 million bonus March 8.
“Personally, I think the spot is Miami,” Edwards, an ESPN analyst, said. “He’d be walking into a situation where obviously the fan base would be excited, he’s got a good receiver in Brandon Marshall, got a pretty good tight end (Anthony Fasano), got a runner in Reggie Bush, a pretty consistent defense, and a team that maybe has a chance to win.”
Edwards’ view is popular around the league, but certainly not unanimous. Some observers, such as former quarterback Joe Theismann, believe the Arizona Cardinals are the best spot for Manning because they play in a dome and have an elite receiver in Larry Fitzgerald.
Others experts, such as former Pro Bowl quarterback Rich Gannon, aren’t sure if Manning, who reportedly has had four spinal fusion surgeries, will be healthy enough to justify a big investment by the Dolphins.
And others, including former Super Bowl-winning coach Brian Billick, believe new coach Joe Philbin needs to establish himself as the team leader, instead of handing the team over to Manning.
“Coach Philbin, obviously he’s coming in with a very specific mindset in terms of the offense he wants to run,” Billick said. “But then when you bring in Peyton Manning, it’s, ‘OK Peyton, bring me your playbook.’
“You’re going to wrap your entire offense around what he wants to do, and I don’t know if Coach Philbin wants to put his offense on the back burner.”
Still, if the Dolphins want to make a splash, signing Manning is certainly the way to go.
“He certainly puts fans in the seats,” said former Dolphins tight end Joe Rose, now the team’s analyst on radio.
And the risks seems minimal. He reportedly would be willing to sign a relatively modest contract with big incentives based on performance. If his recent injury prevented him from making it through the season, Miami could turn to Matt Moore, who proved last year with his 6-3 record down the stretch that he is a viable option. Moore is under contract for one more year with Miami.
“Matt Moore’s damn good insurance, as good as any backup in football right now,” Rose said.
If Manning goes on the market, the Dolphins will have plenty of competition for his services -- Washington, Arizona, Seattle, Cleveland, Kansas City and the New York Jets all are expected to show interest, too.
Other than Arizona -- which owes Kevin Kolb a $7 million roster bonus on March 17 -- Miami has the best weather of the bunch for Manning, who has played his entire career in a dome. He also owns a condo in South Beach (he reportedly has been seen at Joe’s Stone Crab the last couple of weeks) and is a frequent golf partner of Dan Marino’s.
And Manning, unlike heralded draft prospect Robert Griffin, wouldn’t cost the Dolphins the draft picks they would have to spend to get the No. 2 overall choice. Griffin also might need a couple of years of development, and many observers believe that Miami, despite three consecutive sub-.500 seasons, isn’t that far from being a playoff team.
“If Matt Moore can win six of your last nine, it shows you that Miami has the talent to compete for the playoffs with Peyton Manning,” Hall of Fame receiver Michael Irvin said.
One downside of signing Manning would be the lost opportunity to sign free agent quarterback Matt Flynn, a potential star who played under Philbin for four seasons in Green Bay.
But NFL Films executive producer Greg Cosell, one of the few people who watches the coaches’ film of each game, is not sold on Flynn, who has started only two games.
“Flynn, at 6-foot-2, does not possess prototypical size. He has above-average arm strength, nothing more,” Cosell wrote last week on his NFL Films blog. “The bottom line: Flynn is not a top-level passer.”
Former Colts president Bill Polian, who drafted Manning in 1998, said the qualities Manning brings to a team in the locker room and on the field far outweigh the risks of signing him.
“No one in the history of football prepares like Peyton Manning. He has a unique approach to the game that just lifts everyone else around him,” Polian said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine. “What Peyton Manning brings as an individual is unique. He’s a winner, through and through.”
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