The San Francisco 49ers have emerged as a late contender in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes on Friday, according to an ESPN report.
According to ESPN, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman watched Manning throw at Duke on Tuesday night. They were impressed enough to send the team doctor to Duke the next day to conduct a physical on Manning.
The Niners, who have been working diligently to extend quarterback Alex Smith's contract, could be a sleeper team to sign Manning, who is planning to conduct a private workout for Broncos brass on Friday.
Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway and head coach John Fox boarded a flight bound for Raleigh-Durham Airport, where they will take a first-hand look at the four-time MVP on the nearby Duke University campus, according to NFL Network.
The two reportedly were joined by Broncos general manager Brian Xanders, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, quarterbacks coach Adam Gase and some of the team's medical personnel, who will be interested to see how far Manning has come in his recovery from the four neck surgeries that sidelined him for the entire 2011 season.
According to The Denver Post, the Broncos hope to bring Manning back to Denver with them, offering the star quarterback a deal worth roughly $60 million over five years, including a guaranteed $30 million.
But Manning is expected to follow up the Denver workout by conducting a similar session for the Tennessee Titans, NFL Network reported. No date has been set for the Titans' workout, according to the report.
News of the private sessions came as multiple reports indicated the Miami Dolphins were out of the race for the former Indianapolis signal caller.
Multiple sources claimed Manning called the Dolphins personally Thursday to confirm he would not be relocating to Florida, according to the NFL Network. The Dolphins reportedly were already seeking other options at quarterback, with plans to sit down with Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn in the next day or so.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Cardinals -- the only other team still believed to be in the Manning hunt -- face a difficult decision Friday with a $7 million roster bonus looming that would see the team retain quarterback Kevin Kolb.
Arizona has until 4:00pm ET to either lock up Kolb, who they acquired last season from Philadelphia in exchange for defensive back Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round draft pick, or decide to let him go.
Manning, meanwhile, will continue to evaluate his options as Denver and Tennessee lead the pursuit of the 11-time Pro Bowler.
Manning's mentor, current Duke head coach David Cutcliffe, issued his own vote of confidence for the rehabbing quarterback, who turns 36 on March 24.
"It's incredible how much progress he's made in throwing the football," Cutcliffe told The Tennessean Thursday.
"He's gotten his arm strength back, and his accuracy is there. I'm not an NFL coach, of course, but I think I know what it takes to complete passes in the NFL, and it's clear that Peyton can make all those throws."
Manning is looking for his second NFL destination after spending his entire 14-year career in Indianapolis.