We’re well into Day 10 of Manning Watch, and for some the speculation is getting old. So like any good soap opera, it needed to give us a good, sudden plot twist.
Since Manning can’t get pregnant, the emergence of a sleeper team is ideal, and ESPN’s Batman and Robin duo delivered.
The floor is yours, Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen:
The Arizona Cardinals have been informed they would be wise to proceed without Manning as a candidate to join the team, leaving three teams as finalists to sign him, also including the Tennessee Titans.
Talks with the Miami Dolphins were described as “positive,” but he informed them midweek they were not going to be among his finalists, sources said.
Now San Francisco is the sleeper team few were expecting.
Schefter and Mort also reported that prior to his workout today with the Broncos and his upcoming workout for the Titans, Manning threw passes in front of the 49ers’ brass on Monday, and then a team doctor conducted a physical on Wednesday.
Throughout this process many skeptics (and I include myself in that group until recently) have pointed to the brief and grainy video of Manning throwing a few weeks ago, and maintained that although he looked like the old Manning, the glimpse we saw was too brief and fleeting.
Here’s the truth about being an outsider: NFL front offices know more than us. I know, I should slow down and let that sink in for a minute.
There’s undoubtedly far more tape of Manning throwing that’s been made available to the teams pursuing the four-time MVP, leaving them with better resources to make a sound judgment before even seeing him throw . Then once they see the real thing in person the realization sinks in that this old, injured quarterback is still kind of good.
That’s why the Titans are so interested despite the possibility that a healthy Manning who plays for three years could force them to abandon Jake Locker, the eighth overall pick in 2011. That’s why the Broncos are making a strong play, despite the omnipresent presence of Tebowmania. And that’s why Jim Harbaugh beat everyone else to Manning, and is hotly pursuing the man who replaced him at quarterback in Indianapolis.
Oh, and that’s why the parameters of the contract for Manning that’s been kicked around by both the Titans and Broncos is around $60 million for five years, with $30 million guaranteed. That framework was reported by Mike Klis of the Denver Post, and while those numbers may jump off the page at first, they’re actually right on target, and maybe even a little low.
A rumor earlier this week from Omar Kelly of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel pegged the possible deal at $65 million for three years. That felt absurd with its cap hit of roughly $21 million. But Klis’ report falls within the $10-12 million range annually that’s been widely expected, on the higher end of that at $12 million even.
The casualty in all of this will be one of the current quarterbacks in the three cities involved. Locker is through one year of his rookie contract, and if Manning signs in Tennessee and is indeed healthy and able to play for three more years, the eighth overall pick in last year’s draft will reach the end of that deal without getting a chance to prove he can thrive at the NFL level. Meanwhile, Tebowmania would immediately suffer a horrible death, and the 49ers would turn their back on Alex Smith after his comeback year while Manning gets to be the new arm throwing to Randy Moss.
There are always casualties in the pursuit of the almighty championship ring.
UPDATE: Klis has changed his initial report, and the updated numbers are, well, large. The new parameters for Manning’s contract are based on his old contract with the Colts. That was set to pay him $90 million over five years while averaging $18 million annually, and paying $61.8 million over the first two years. The Cardinals have also decided to pay Kevin Kolb his $7 million roster bonus, which officially removes them from the Manning sweepstakes.
First we were at absurd with Manning’s contract, then we went to reasonable, and now we’re back to absurd.