At one point it seemed as though nearly half of the league’s 32 teams were at least loosely connected to super-free agent Peyton Manning. Now, though, the Browns and Redskins have come to grips with reality, the Jaguars have been tossed aside, and the Jets appear to be out of the sweepstakes as well.

And despite all the speculation, the Texans, Titans and 49ers were never really players for Manning.

That would seem to leave Miami, Denver, Arizona, Kansas City and Seattle. And while it was reported earlier today that the Chiefs had actually become the first team to make Manning an official offer, it seems they’ve also been cast aside, along with the Seahawks.

Every report in this hemisphere now suggests that the race for No. 18 is down to three teams: Miami, Denver and Arizona. By all indications, after he visits with the Broncos today, Manning will trek to Phoenix to talk with the Cards before finishing up back in South Florida. And according to the Denver Post, he then plans to make a decision before free agency starts on Tuesday.

The timing is a bit surprising. I thought Manning would let the market evolve and take time for a bidding war to develop.

But what’s really shocking is the notion that one of these teams would be willing to sign Manning as early as Tuesday. With exception to a grainy video shot last weekend in North Carolina, we haven’t seen Manning throw passes yet.¬†And although the Broncos curiously have yet to release the full itinerary for their visit with Manning, we’ve yet to hear or see a report stating that he’ll be doing anything other than “meeting” with the team.

Denver is reportedly desperate to sign Manning, but they’re also reportedly in third place. Would they be desperate enough to hastily throw a bunch of guaranteed and non-guaranteed cash at the man with a limited or non-existent sample size indicating his ability to, you know, throw footballs? Who knows? John Elway was given the keys to the ship only a year ago, and he had no experience managing personnel prior to that.

Maybe he’s bold/foolish enough to do exactly that.

The good news is, we’ll likely know by Tuesday if it’s Elway’s Broncos, or if it’s his hometown Dolphins, or if it’s the Cardinals and Rod Graves is able medicate his bad case of post-Kurt Warner syndrome by adding a veteran “franchise” quarterback for the second time in less than a year.