All but a handful of teams would be better with a healthy Peyton Manning at quarterback.
So while we know that at least 12 have inquired, why wouldn’t all those teams that could upgrade be constantly calling his agent?
Well, it’s not quite so simple.
I think all but a handful of teams should do their due diligence and check in to see what Manning wants most. Maybe you’re more of a fit than you think.
But let’s consider some reasons a team might not pursue him.
Health: Sure if he is interested in you, you’ll get to see him throw and your medical people will get to examine him and look at all the X-rays, MRIs and tests they could want. Different teams have different standards. Some may judge him to be fine and believe he’ll be close to his old self by the time the season starts. But others may believe he’s insufficiently recovered or is too much of an injury risk.
Money: He’s set for life, of course, and has plenty of other sources of income. His camp has indicated he’d be fine with an incentive-laden deal that will protect a team in the event his heath prevents him from contributing the way both sides would imagine when he signs. Still, there is going to be more than one team that wants him. And one way to edge out the competition is to ramp up the money. It’s reasonable for a team to decide it doesn’t want to play that game. Not every team will be able to afford Manning even if they want to.
Long-range plans: The NFL is generally a meritocracy. GMs and personnel folks are always looking to upgrade. The better guy is supposed to play. But you also build a team with a long-range plan, and some methodical teams won’t want to discard theirs for a three-year run with Manning. It’s easy for fans to say, "Just alter course, he’s an all-time great." GMs generally don’t get as anxious and jumpy. Here’s a situation where maybe more should.
Loyalty and fit: Let’s use Houston as an example here, as I do in the video above. Is Matt Schaub at the same level as a healthy Manning? Nope. Would the Texans be a Super Bowl favorite with Manning? Yep. But they may be a Super Bowl favorite as they are. They’ve invested a lot in Schaub and don’t want to pull the rug out from under him. Plus, Gary Kubiak’s offense is heavy on bootlegs and rollouts. Those aren’t Manning’s game. Certainly a team could scrap it and craft things for Manning. But if the owner is loyal to the coach and the coach is loyal to the quarterback, they don’t want major changes to an offense that’s pretty effective as currently constructed.
A desire to develop your own: I hesitate a bit to call Manning a mercenary. Everybody in the league is one, really. But say you’re the Titans and you’ve invested in Jake Locker. Is it irrational for them to think, “We want to develop Locker. We hope he’ll become our Peyton Manning. Maybe not an all-time great, but a guy who anchors a successful team for 10 years”? Manning is 36. If you project a young quarterback to be a star for you, do you just push him aside for three years? Sure he’d learn a lot watching Manning work, but not nearly as much as if he got into the lineup himself. It’s OK to want to find your guy instead of going out to get THE guy.
Alternate needs: Stick with the Titans as an example here. Be honest and unemotional as you answer this: Would the team as currently constructed improve more if it had Manning at quarterback or Mario Williams at defensive end? I’m not saying they wind up with either. But the distance between their quarterbacks and Manning is smaller in my eyes than the distance between their ends and Williams. Other teams will have similar situations. Would it be great to add Manning? Sure. Do they have other holes on their roster demanding more attention? In many cases, it’s likely.