2016 Draft Kit

Fantasy football offseason: Where Peyton Manning may go, and the value ripple effect

I was seven when I first threw a rock into a still pond and noticed the concentric circles rippling out from where the rock hit the reflective glass-like surface of the water. And of course, the bigger the rock, the larger the ripples. Throw in two rocks, and the wake from the larger one would drown out everything in its path.

The calm lake of the NFL offseason will soon be pelted with stones of all sizes – free agent signings, trades, draft picks, etc. But none will be as big as Peyton Manning. It will be like dropping a boulder in a bathtub – a bowling ball in a coffee mug.

Where will he land? How will his ripple effect change the values of others in the league? Dynasty owners need to stay on top of the ramifications, because there is serious value potential here. Let’s look at some of the scenarios and updated information in the first of what will is planned as a regular offseason feature involving the NFL rumor mill and how we dynasty fantasy owners should interpret the tea leaves.

First things first, there are a lot of questions marks swirling around the Peyton Manning situation. So many rumors as people speculate what may happen and what every little change could mean to the bigger picture.

A lot of the rumors are just that – rumors. Take them with a grain of salt. The key is to look for patterns in the reporting.

What we know for sure is that Peyton Manning is very unlikely to return as a Colt in 2012. In fact, I’d feel safe in saying at this point that he definitely won’t be donning the blue horseshoe this fall.

His health situation is a myriad of speculation. Some reports suggest he was cleared to resume his career and rehab and that he was clearly on track to return to action for 2012. Other reports have been less fluffy and positive.

As much as any current Manning owner in a dynasty league would hate to admit it (and I am one of them), there is serious possibility that Peyton never plays NFL football again.

I know Chris Mortensen has suggested that is ludicrous via interviews ESPN sports radio because Manning is trying ways too hard to rehab to seriously consider retiring. However, Manning may not have a choice. No one knows just how fast his neck nerves will generate – if they do at all.

Reports today from the Mike Lombardi on the Bill Simmons Report suggest that Manning can’t even throw the ball to the left side at all. That he can’t throw across his body because he can’t feel it at all. Other similar reports suggest that he isn’t close to throwing like an NFL quarterback at the moment.

Of course, there is time between now and Week 1 of the 2012 NFL season for Manning to improve. The issue is wondering how long teams can wait to develop their drafting and offseason plans as they gauge the Manning situation.

One other factor to consider is that if Peyton signs with another team, he will be given a certain amount of sway. This pull very likely could lead to Manning drawing a few of his previous favorite weapons along for the ride. Interestingly enough, Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark and Pierre Garcon are all free agents this offseason. Several of the teams on this list are in serious need of extra weapons, and Manning could supply those with any of these long-time Colts teammates.

The following five teams have been linked to Manning as the most likely to make a move for the veteran signal caller, and how a potential Manning signing could affect the values of others on each team. Afterward, I’ll suggest a few dark horse candidates.

Miami Dolphins

A team that has been searching for a franchise QB ever since Dan Marino walked off into the sunset, the Dolphins are desperate for a QB of Manning’s caliber. Reports on rotoworld.com suggest that officials in Miami have been salivating for a chance at Peyton and will be very active this offseason in trying to woo No. 18.

Manning will definitely be looking for a place to compete right away, and while the Dolphins are in a very tough division against the Patriots and Jets, Manning’s long-time rivalry with Tom Brady may actually be a selling point for the Dolphins.

It helps that Miami has a premier receiving talent in Brandon Marshall who can produce right away with a quarterback that knows how to get the ball to his main weapons.

New Dolphins coach Joe Philbin is used to being around elite QB talent in Green Bay, and will have no problem instituting an offense that would incorporate Manning’s pass-heavy resume.

Peyton loves throwing to tight ends, and Miami’s Anthony Fasano has been mediocre at best in being a regular, high-volume receiving option. Of course, Manning’s presence could easily improve Fasano’s stock, but there is no guarantee Fasano will even play for the Dolphins this season or beyond.

This could be a situation where Manning would talk Dallas Clark into coming to Miami with him, and maybe even Garcon or Wayne to play opposite Marshall.

Manning hasn’t be a QB that helps his RBs gain maximum statage, but Reggie Bush’s hands out of the backfield would be a benefit for a QB that may have to dump the ball off a little more than he had in the past.

Philbin’s ties to Green Bay may facilitate a move to acquire talented backup QB Matt Flynn, so they have some options at the moment.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals thought they had their long-term answer at QB when they overpaid for Kevin Kolb, but after a disaster of a 2011 season, it is obvious they are willing to go another direction.

The benefits in Arizona for Manning are plenty. For one, he’d be playing in a very winnable NFC-West. He’d also play home games in a dome and get to live in a more seasonably friendly environment.

The Cardinals also have Larry Fitzgerald, arguably the best WR in the NFL (especially if you consider how he produces with dumpster fires at QB in recent seasons). Opposite Fitzgerald is Andre Roberts, who hasn’t been as explosive as many believed he could be. Perhaps a QB upgrade would improve his stock, and Roberts could be a sneaky good value if Manning lands in Arizona.

Todd Heap is the defacto tight end for at least another season after signing a two-year deal last year. Heap’s skillset is declining and while his value would also improve with Peyton around, it seems more likely that the Cardinals do something to improve there, again possibly contacting Dallas Clark. And again, there is the potential that Manning brings along Reggie Wayne or Pierre Garcon to compliment the passing game.

Running back-wise, Arizona has the combo of Beanie Wells and Ryan Williams. Both have their own injury issues, but the potential is there for Manning to not have to carry the load by himself.

One major plus, too, for Arizona is unlike other teams on this list, they can afford to wait a little on Manning’s health situation. While teams like the Dolphins, Redskins, etc., that will need to look at an elite QB in the upcoming draft if they aren’t going to get Manning, the Cardinals can give Kolb another shot if Peyton is forced to retire during the offseason.

Tennessee Titans

A name that was floated around by some of the talking heads on sports radio, Tennessee does have the allure to Manning of being familiar, since he rose to stardom as the QB of the Tennessee Vols once upon a time.

And the Titans do offer some serious potential at receiver in both Kenny Britt and Jared Cook (TE). The issue I have is that Tennessee seems fairly set at QB with veteran Matt Hasselbeck and young upstart option Jake Locker, who looked special during stretches filling in for Hasselbeck in 2011.

I just don’t see the familiarity with the state of Tennessee as enough of a pull for Manning to jump to the Titans, and I also get a feeling that the Titans will invest in other need areas this offseason with the goal of developing Locker as the long-term answer.

Washington Redskins

There has been numerous sources who tie Manning to the Redskins and suggest that Washington would be the first option for Peyton when he becomes available.

I just can’t see this happening. Call it a gut feeling, but what exactly do the Redskins offer Manning as he heads into the twilight of his career? They have no real offensive weapons with both Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney aging quickly and the troubled Fred Davis’ future with the team at a crossroads. The running game has some potential in Roy Helu, but coach Mike Shanahan seems to overthink his RB situation into oblivion.

Then there is Shanahan himself, who is a control freak about the offense and it seems hard to picture him and Peyton co-existing in that offense.

And the Redskins are in an NFC-East that could be very competitive for quite some time with the Eagles, Giants and Cowboys boasting plenty of talent.

As much as others suggest Manning will wind up a Redskin, it just seems hard to fathom at this point.

New York Jets

Like the Arizona Cardinals, the Jets have the luxury of being more patient in the Peyton Manning arena. They can continue to play their confidence-in-Mark Sanchez card, although it is obvious from numerous reports on Rotoworld.com and other respectable sources that the Jets are far from confident that Sanchez can lead them to a Super Bowl title.

New York isn’t a stranger to the signing of an NFL QB in his twilight, either, after trying a similar experiment with Brett Favre that was actually very successful until Favre got injured.

New York has weapons, too, as Santonio Holmes isn’t going anywhere, and tight end Dustin Keller could blossom into a top-5 fantasy TE with an elite QB such as Manning (who, again, loves his TEs) under center.

The Jets defense would help keep pressure off Manning to carry the team on his shoulders and he could revive his rivalry with Tom Brady at least twice per season.

And, in a perfect storm where New York hosts the Super Bowl in two seasons, the Jets could meet the Eli Manning-led Giants for all the marbles. What a script for Peyton’s swan song.

While the five previously named teams are considered the front-runners by those inside the Manning situation, it would be hard not to consider the following squads as potential suitors …

Seattle Seahawks

As anyone would have expected, Tavaris Jackson proved once again that he isn’t a franchise quarterback. Pete Carroll needs a long-term option and Manning would at least bridge the gap until the team can draft its QB of the future.

Seattle, of course, plays in the winnable NFC-West. And they don’t need to majorly alter their draft plans if Manning’s situation draws out.

However, as a Peyton owner in my main dynasty league, it is not a thrilling thought to consider Manning as a Seahawk. Their weapons are less than desirable (sorry to all the Sidney Rice and Golden Tate fans out there), and while Manning could bring in some of his buddies, it is still would be hard to see Seattle giving Peyton every chance to shine as well as other teams on this list.

San Francisco 49ers

A sneaky option, the Niners are wisely still calling Alex Smith their guy moving forward, and while Smith is a free agent, the industry experts expect him to re-sign with San Francisco.

However, there is little doubt that Smith lacks some of the killer instinct and finer skills necessary to boost a team single-handedly into a Super Bowl title. He was a game manager last season, and short of his efforts in the playoff win over the Saints, looked fairly pedestrian.

There is little doubt San Francisco is looking to bring in a big-play receiving option to play across from Michael Crabtree, and it would be interesting if they make an early play for a Reggie Wayne or Pierre Garcon in an effort to woo Manning off the record. They would be like the Cardinals and Jets in being able to wait out the Manning situation to make sure he is capable of truly playing.

Vernon Davis would love to have Manning around, I’m sure, and the Niners give Manning arguably the best chance of any potential team to win rings right away.

Cleveland Browns and Minnesota Vikings

Two more teams with QB questions, the Browns and Vikings are not names you’ll hear associated to Manning all that often this offseason.

Cleveland is looking for a QB upgrade to Colt McCoy, who is seen more as a decent QB2 but not an elite starter in the league. Expect the constantly rebuilding Browns to upgrade at signal caller via the draft.

Minnesota faces an uphill battle in the NFC-North, especially with premier running back Adrian Peterson injured and aging. They spent a first-round pick on Christian Ponder last season, and the verdict is still out on him. Joe Webb looked more electrifying at times, though.

Neither of these teams really give Manning a true chance of competing right away for a Super Bowl bid.

Indianapolis Colts

I know I ruled out the Colts earlier in this discussion, and I don’t see Manning realistically staying in Indy, but it is still an outside possibility.

However, I’m more interested at the moment in the potential values that may emerge on this team in Manning’s wake.

Andrew Luck would be given the keys to the castle right away, and it is hard to bank on a rookie QB right out of the gates, both in real life and fantasy. However, the probable exodus of Dallas Clark and Reggie Wayne – and possible loss of Pierre Garcon via free agency, too – could open up major doors for Austin Collie. If he’s available in your league via a cheap trade or to pick up, make the move right away. He could be starting the season as the team’s No. 1 receiver, or at worst, the No. 2 with big time upside. We saw what he could do until concussions derailed his season two years ago, and Collie stayed healthy all of 2011, so there is serious sleeper potential here.

Same, too, for Jacob Tamme, who showed in Dallas Clark’s absence two years ago that he can produce solid numbers.

And the winner is …

With all that being said, I personally think the Cardinals, Dolphins and Jets are  the true three frontrunners, with the Niners being the darkhorse candidate later in the offseason if Manning doesn’t sign for a while. If I were Peyton, I’d choose Arizona for all the intangibles (winnable division, dome, Larry Fitzgerald), but could see him being successful with any of these four potential destinations.

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