Brad Gagnon

bradgagnon

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And we leave you with this…

Two things:

1. I say “we leave you” because it’s quitting time on Friday, but I’m probably lying because Peyton Manning’s rockstar free agency tour doesn’t work 9-to-5, and thus neither do we. So there’s a good chance we’ll be back with more between now and Monday.

2. We don’t work politics into the mix very often around here, simply because it isn’t good business when you consider that an opinion on a particular candidate can technically alienate a large percentage of those reading. Not worth it, and it’s not in our wheelhouse anyway. That said, this is too good to ignore…

So Philip Rivers is a big Santorum fan. Please, elaborate

“I am supporting Rick Santorum for President because of his stance on issues that attack vital Christian values our country was founded upon: no abortion, upholding traditional marriage, defending religious freedom, no euthanasia. Rick Santorum will also fight to create jobs and expand opportunities for all Americans. I am proud to endorse Senator Santorum and do what I can to help him secure the Republican nomination for President of the United States.”

For more information, feel free to Google “Santorum,” but do so at your own NSFW risk.

The Colts have already said goodbye to Peyton Manning and are reportedly prepared to do so with Dwight Freeney.

In the meantime, the clearly rebuilding franchise has parted ways with a handful of veterans with starting experience.

Joseph Addai, Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt, Dallas Clark and Curtis Painter were all released late this afternoon, according to the team. Addai, Brackett and Clark were part of the Super Bowl-winning 2006 squad.

It’s unfortunate, because while the team is looking to get younger and usher in a new era, Bullitt and Addai are only 27 and 28, respectively. Neither was highly paid, either, but they weren’t getting the job done and weren’t staying healthy.

The Colts save $18 million over the next three years by cutting Brackett, who is 31 and hasn’t made it through a full season since 2007. Plus, he might not have embraced the transition from cover 2 to 3-4.

At 32, Clark is the oldest of the batch. He had also struggled to stay healthy the last two years. And although he’d be a good guy to have around for Andrew Luck’s rookie season, it’s not surprising to see Indy move on.

And then there’s Painter, who proved this past season that he can’t be relied upon to step in and start. If that’s the case, why have him around? I’d imagine the Colts will look for a veteran who they feel can work well with Luck and get the job done in a pinch. If they’re going to spend anywhere, they’d be wise to spend on a backup quarterback in 2012.

The only pivot currently on the Indy roster? Former Arena Leaguer Trevor Vittatoe, whom they signed 24 hours ago.

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.

If there were presses running at 1:30 p.m. ET and if presses were still relevant to the contemporary news cycle, they’d very likely be stopped for this.

Peyton Manning is making the first free-agent visit of his NFL career, and it’ll take place in Tim Tebow’s backyard.

Figuratively, of course.

Manning will be in Denver tonight to meet with the Broncos, according to Mike Klis and Woody Paige of the Denver Post.

All week, the Mile High City has been gaining momentum in the Manning rumor mill, with only Miami and maybe Arizona and Kansas City being mentioned as often.

Manning and Tebow together in Denver would be a complete circus. Manning would be the undisputed starter, obviously, but you can be sure there’d still be Tebow zealots who would bitch and whine and exhibit an utter lack of football knowledge in the process.

There’s always been a belief that John Elway wants a more prototypical quarterback leading the franchise, and Manning clearly fits that bill. This would give the Broncos an excuse to push Tebow aside, using him in special packages or at a completely different position.

Of course, there’s also a chance they completely dump No. 15 when No. 18 arrives. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves — this is probably the first of many stops on the 2012 Peyton Manning tour.

More from the Post:

One NFL source said Manning will also visit the Arizona Cardinals and Miami Dolphins after visiting with the Broncos. A source said Manning would like to make a decision by Tuesday, the first day of free agency.

And according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, this trip doesn’t indicate that Denver is Manning’s top choice and it’s not a negotiation. Many — namely Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald — still believe that Miami and Arizona are frontrunners. And Adam Schefter reports that Manning will also visit the Cardinals on this trip.

(Billboard picture via Steve Nehf of the Denver Post)

Yesterday, our very own Alen Dumonjic concluded that, in the right offense, Matt Flynn can be a successful starting quarterback in this league:

Flynn is likely to fall in line this offseason with past Packers quarterbacks while making the transition to being a starter for a different franchise. He has quality game management skills and pocket presence to go along with his mobility and accuracy.

However, his weakness lies in his arm strength, where he struggles to consistently deliver strikes in the intermediate depth of the field. Although this is an issue, it can be managed by designing the offense around the strength of his game by using play action and throws in between the hashes that are commonly seen in west coast offenses.

The problem, of course, is that the rest of the league’s quarterback-needy general managers and personnel gurus haven’t seen a lot of the impending free-agent quarterback. I mean, we’re talking about a seventh-round pick with a grand total of two starts in four seasons.

That’s why he’s unfortunately — and probably unfairly — being compared to Kevin Kolb. And that’s why there’s a major risk tied to the Flynn investment (Flynnvestment?).

But for a ringing endorsement, let’s go to the man who’s been quarterbacking in practice with Flynn for four years, reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers:

Top 15? Dude’s probably gonna demand upwards of $10 million a year and all you can predict is that he’s going to be better than Matt Hasselbeck? That’s who finished 16th in the league in passer rating last season.

And FYI: Matt Moore was 16th in yards per attempt, Andy Dalton was 16th in yardage and completion percentage, and Hasselbeck was 16th in touchdown passes.

So hey, if you want a franchise quarterback who Aaron Rodgers predicts will be, at the very least, slightly better than Matt Hasselbeck, Andy Dalton and Matt Moore, then Matt Flynn is your guy.

There’s no doubt that during this recent golden age of Colts football, Peyton Manning was the straw that stirred Indy’s drink (oh man, that was weak, but it’s Friday). That being said, Indianapolis has always had a sneaky strong pass rush featuring one of the best sack duos in football.

Maybe it’s fitting and understandable that in the same offseason in which the organization has severed ties with Manning, it’ll also break up that dynamic duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

Five days after they signed Mathis to a long-term contract extension, ESPN’s Adam Schefter indicates that the team is seeking to trade Freeney.

This is the product of what appears to be a responsible rebuild from team owner Jim Irsay and new general manager Ryan Grigson. Irsay confessed at Manning’s goodbye press conference Wednesday that the team is “definitely a few years away.” And while Freeney is 32 now and might still be a top-end contributor in a few years at, say, 35, Indy certainly can’t afford the $19-million cap hit this year and realizes that it makes little sense to pay up before he becomes a free agent next offseason.

That’s obviously why they’re looking to trade him. Cutting Freeney — which is the worst-case scenario but probably something they’ll consider if the trade market doesn’t deliver — would cost the team about $5 million in dead cap money. Considering that Manning’s already eating up approximately $16 million in dead money, that wouldn’t be particularly healthy.

So get something for one of the league’s best pass rushers now, before you’re forced to eat that paycheck or lose him for nothing next offseason.

Money isn’t the only reason why the Colts are trying to dump Freeney while sticking with Mathis. Besides being a year younger than Freeney, Mathis might be better suited to play standing up as the Colts convert to a 3-4 defense under new head coach Chuck Pagano, and he has expressed a willingness to give it a shot. Meanwhile, there have been indications that Freeney isn’t as open to that potential transition.

So this simply makes sense, even though Freeney is clearly the more superior rusher. It’ll be interesting to see, now, how Mathis’ sack numbers are affected by not having Freeney playing on the opposite side. The problem is that we’ve rarely seen Mathis without Freeney. Both have been relatively healthy, and they missed time together during the second half of the 2007 season.

Dating to 2004, Mathis has 80 sacks, while Freeney has 78.5. And so combined, they’ve averaged just under 20 sacks per season during the prime of their careers. It’ll be a shame to see that run end, but the Colts are making a prudent decision with the current state of the franchise in mind.

They’ve made a habit of that this week.

10. Jan 4, 2004: Perfect passer rating in his first playoff victory – It took six years for Manning to win his first playoff game, but when that victory finally came, it arrived in stylish fashion. Manning became only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to post a perfect passer rating in a playoff game as the Colts crushed Denver 41-0. No. 18 had five touchdown passes and no interceptions, finishing with just four incompletions.

9. Jan. 24, 2010: Domination against the Jets in the ’09 AFC title game – Both of Manning’s conference championship performances have been phenomenal. We’ll get to the first game against New England in a moment, but Manning roasted the Jets’ aggressive defense with 377 yards and three touchdowns as the Colts punched a ticket to the Super Bowl for the second time in four years.

8. Nov. 15, 2009: Comeback against New England – Unfortunately, what most remember best from this game is Bill Belichick going for it from his own territory on fourth down with a late lead. But Manning also led Indy on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives as the Colts came back from a 17-point deficit to slay their biggest rival.

7. March 24, 2007: Saturday Night Live United Way ad spoof – This one speaks for itself:

6. Oct. 6, 2003: Comeback against the Bucs: ’03 was the year in which Manning went from great to untouchable. His numbers shot up as he became significantly more efficient, and the Colts went 12-4 — their second best record since the 1970 merger. The Colts went to the AFC championship game that year, but the highlight of their breakout season probably took place when Manning led a 21-point fourth-quarter comeback against the best defense in the league, in the house of the defending Super Bowl champions.

5. Sept. 28, 2003: Six-touchdown performance against the Saints: One week prior to that comeback in Tampa, and back in his home town, Manning lit up New Orleans with six touchdown passes and a perfect passer rating as the Colts crushed the Saints 55-21.

4. Jan. 9, 2005: Another ridiculous playoff performance against the Broncos – Manning didn’t just kill the Broncos in 2003; he did it again the very next year. His passer rating might not have been perfect this time, but Manning had one of the most dominant performances I’ve seen from a quarterback as the Colts put up 49 points in another blowout victory in the wild-card round. He had 458 yards and four touchdown passes on the day.

3. Dec. 26, 2004: Breaks the single-season touchdown record – This record has since fallen to his arch nemesis, Tom Brady. But at the time, it was a big deal. The ’04 season was arguably the best of Manning’s career, and the highlight came in Week 16 against San Diego, when he set a new single-season touchdown record with a whole game to spare.

2. Jan. 21, 2007: AFC championship victory against the Pats – After falling to New England in the playoffs two of the previous three seasons, the Patriots had officially become Indy’s biggest obstacle. But en route to Manning’s only Super Bowl victory, he and the Colts came back from an early 18-point deficit to win. It was the biggest comeback in conference title game history.

1. Feb. 4, 2007: Super Bowl XLI: Manning might not have played the game of his life, but there’s really no way around putting the Super Bowl in the top spot.