Peyton Manning Derby: Down to three teams?

      March 17, 2012 @ 12:05:03 PDT

Peyton Manning has his sights on three teams after what seemed like half of the NFL world was interested in adding his services.

and then there were three?

The Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans and San Francisco 49ers appear to be the final three teams courting the free-agent quarterback. It is believed Manning will make a decision by Tuesday, March 20.

What we think we know...

  • Titans owner Bud Adams made it clear he wants Manning in Tennessee and will do whatever it takes financially to make that happen. Reports noted the Colts are comfortable working off Manning's previous deal with the Colts, which paid him an average of $18 million per year. Manning is reportedly working out for the Titans today.

  • The Broncos' brass, including executive vice president of football operations John Elway, met with Manning this week and seemed happy with what they saw of his workout. "He threw the ball great and looked very comfortable out there," Elway noted after watching Manning work out.

  • Out of no where, reports surfaced late in the week that the 49ers worked out Manning earlier in the week. Numerous reports at the beginning of the Manning situation noted the 49ers were not interested in him and were completely behind quarterback Alex Smith, who had his finest season as a pro last year. Smith and the 49ers have been negotiating a new contract for quite some time. If they are behind Smith so much, why hasn't a deal already been consummated?

Best opportunity for Manning

When this saga began, I wrote the 49ers were my dark horse team in the Manning derby. The two sides just make a lot of sense to be tied together at the hip, which KFFL's Cory Bonini echoed in his recent report on the situation.

Windows for success in the NFL are traditionally small. Manning's window is also incredibly small, and that is taking into the assumption that he'll even be 80 or 90 percent of what he was prior to missing an entire season recovering from neck surgery.

The 49ers, from top to bottom, provide Manning with the best opportunity to win right now. They're in a weak division, they have a talented team in place and their defense is arguably the best in the league. These are characteristics in a team most quarterbacks would die for; and Manning has rarely benefited during his career with the Colts of having a team as balanced as the 49ers are.

Team RB WR TE Oline Defense
Denver Broncos
San Francisco 49ers
Tennessee Titans

Before a bow can be tied on this situation, each team involved has to weigh several significant items:

Where is Manning's health?
While we have received favorable reports recently, Manning isn't a young guy in the world of football anymore. He just missed an entire year of football due to multiple neck surgeries. Reports have noted he may need another clean-up procedure. Even if the neck issue didn't exist, he has a lot of miles on his arm and age may be ready to creep up on him sooner than most want to believe.

Is this the Colt you should hitch your wagon to financially?
It appears, based off of the dollar amounts we are hearing being thrown around, that Manning is not going to come on the cheap. If you add him with a huge contract and he doesn't pay off, it can cripple a team long term.

Manning is a short-term solution.
Making a move to him in San Francisco would spell the end of Alex Smith's time with the franchise. In Denver, Tim Tebow may try to force his hand to get out of town if he now has to sit behind Manning. In Tennessee, because their quarterback situation with Jake Locker and Matt Hasselbeck is a bit more fluid, they would be able to pull this off easier and Locker would be the quarterback of the future.

This situation is playing out in real time and a decision on where Manning finishes his career should come in short order. I think the smart money is on the 49ers, but things that make the most sense on paper don't always play out that way in the world of the NFL. I have to say I'm slightly giddy at the thought of a motivated Randy Moss catching balls from No. 18 with the 49ers.

Which team do you think signs Manning?

Follow @kffl on Twitter for the latest on the Manning situation and don't forget to cyber-stalk me @ryanbonini on Twitter, too.

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About Ryan R. Bonini

Founding KFFL in 1996, Bonini now serves as VP of Fantasy Sports Solutions for USA TODAY SPORTS, KFFL's parent company. Bonini was named 2009 Fantasy Football Writer of the Year by the FSWA, received honors with the Best Fantasy Football Series in '10 and was named into their Hall of Fame in '13.

His work has been found in USA TODAY Sports, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, CBS Sports,, and many others. He has also been featured on numerous radio programs around the country. Bonini is a member of the PFWA, FSWA and FSTA.

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