Peyton Manning is a free agent, everyone. And, somewhat predictably, there’s been a mad rush for his services. We’ve heard that as many as 12 teams have made contact and that Manning is supposedly aiming to make a decision within a week.

But ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano raises a good point. What’s the rush?

How is it even remotely possible that an NFL team could confidently commit real money to Peyton Manning by this time next week? How is it possible that there’s about to be a Manning bidding war among one-third of the teams in the NFL when no one knows how healthy his neck is or how strong his arm is? How can you even consider signing Peyton Manning without having a team of doctors who have had their hands on him swear up and down that he’s going to be fine — just as good as he was before the neck injury, don’t worry about it.

I understand why teams are naturally flocking to Manning. Once there’s word out that one team is interested, none of the other interested or semi-interested parties are going to risk losing out entirely by playing coy. But there’s a difference between contacting Manning’s people and offering him a contract, and you get the feeling the majority of teams involved will perform their due diligence before mortgaging the short- and long-term future on a 36-year-old quarterback with, um, vertebrae issues.

A theory exists that Manning will take his time for multiple reasons. First, he’s never been through this process before and doesn’t know what to expect. Second, the longer this drags on, the more Manning’s neck will (should) improve. And finally, there’s a chance that a delay will only drive up the price by intensifying the bidding war.

Then again, if Manning’s a smart business man (and he is) and his neck isn’t coming along perfectly, he’d be smart to grab whatever guaranteed money is on the table as soon as it’s thrown his way. Of course, he’d still have to pass a physical — but there is a way in which No. 18 could once again receive millions of dollars to stand on a sideline in 2012.

He’s likely not that unscrupulous, but it’s still something franchises need to be wary of before making a seismic investment.