Plenty rides on Manning's next decision

BY foxsports • March 7, 2012

Peyton Manning has been a game-changer his entire career.

Today Manning changes the game for the St. Louis Rams and several other teams in an NFL offseason that is fast becoming topsy-turvy.

With Manning available, the entire quarterback discussion turns away from the draft and to Manning. He has convinced most that he is healthy and able to play this season, so there will be huge interest in him from teams that need a quarterback.

That might hurt the Rams, and in a quirky way it might help the Cleveland Browns, who according to reports have refused to offer the Rams their second first-round pick this season in exchange for moving up two spots to draft Robert Griffin III (a report the Browns have neither confirmed or denied).

The Rams made it known they would trade the second overall pick, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported they wanted that trade completed this week. Washington and Cleveland had the highest picks to offer, the sixth and fourth overall.

But with Manning on the market, the trade could go on the back burner so the Rams might have to wait.

The Redskins might see if they can sign Manning. And if the dominoes fall so that Manning goes to Washington and Matt Flynn goes to Miami where his offensive coordinator in Green Bay is now coach, that leaves Cleveland with a little more leverage — and perhaps allows it to move up to two without giving up the 22nd overall pick.

This is all supposition of course. Because nobody knows what Manning will do.

And there are many who say Manning and Mike Shanahan would not work in Washington, something FOX Sports' Brian Billick pointed out.

But the Redskins have a lot to offer. They play in a great city, have a rich tradition and have Shanahan, who at least has the image of being a molder of quarterbacks. The Redskins also would have the sixth overall pick in the draft and two picks in the top 39 — which would give the Redskins and Manning more talent. But if money matters, Daniel Snyder will not finish second.

If Washington is able to attract Manning, Cleveland would be the most attractive trading partner for the Rams, who don't want to trade out of the top 10. Without a competing offer the Browns might be able to move up without giving up the 22nd overall pick.

Wishful thinking for beleaguered Cleveland fans? Perhaps. Maybe even probably.

There's a lot of thinking around the league that the best fit for Manning is Kansas City, Seattle or the Jets. And there is good foundation for that thinking, but each also raises questions.

The Chiefs have the players to put around Manning, especially if Jamaal Charles comes back healthy from knee surgery. They also have experience bringing in an aging Hall of Famer, which they did with Joe Montana, who had the unceremonious duty of playing for Marty Schottenheimer. Manning would have Romeo Crennel as coach and Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator.

It will be interesting to see how Manning would view playing for Rex Ryan in New York. Ryan is bombastic, boastful and loud — which is pretty much everything Peyton Manning isn't. Manning would be surrounded by talent, and he'd be near his brother. But he'd be with a team that operates the exact opposite way that Manning seems to want to operate.

In Seattle, Manning would have the ultimate player's coach in Pete Carroll, and he'd have an outstanding back in Marshawn Lynch. But even with Mike Holmgren's great efforts, Seattle remains a bit of an NFL outpost.

Then there are surprise teams that could get involved. Very few folks had Chicago in the running when Jay Cutler was on the trade market. Arizona isn't exactly a stealth team, but Manning might be intrigued by Phoenix winters and throwing indoors to Larry Fitzgerald. With Ken Whisenhunt as coach, the Cardinals might be high on Manning's list.

Whatever happens, this could be the most watched free agent process in sports since a certain someone took his talents to South Beach. The image of Manning in a new stadium telling adoring crowds "Not three, not four, not five. . ." is rich, but won't happen.

Of the many things that are not known about Manning's future, the one that is known is there will not be a repeat of "The Decision."

And for that, everyone is thankful.