For perhaps the first time in his career, there is a cloud of uncertainty hanging over the head of Peyton Manning. Manning missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury and without him, the Indianapolis Colts fell to a 2-14 season and the number one pick in the draft. This draft just happens to contain quarterback Andrew Luck, rated by most as the best quarterback prospect since Manning himself. Before the season started, the Colts signed Manning to a 5-year, $90million contract. This leaves the Colts in quite the predicament... Keep a 35 year old (will be 36 in March) quarterback who has been the face of your franchise for the last decade and trade the rights to Luck and build up around Manning for another few years of Super Bowl runs; or cut ties with Manning and move on into the future with Luck.
It appears that in all likelihood the Colts will draft Luck, making Manning a very expensive back-up option. Manning is due a $28million roster bonus in March before the window for trading players opens. This means that the Colts will have to make the decision to either pay Manning and keep him as that very expensive back-up, or cut him and get nothing in return. There is debate as to exactly what the Colts will do, but there's a pretty good chance Manning hits the open market.
That is where the Washington Redskins come in. Rumor has it that they are interested. In years gone by, Vinny Cerrato would have taken Dan Snyder's checkbook and given Manning a blank check to come play in D.C. (Or Maryland, as the case may be). Hell, even this new regime would do similar. I mean, one of their first moves was to go and make a trade for Donovan McNabb, so they could easily make a similar move and go get Manning right?
Wrong. I truly believe this front office knows what they are doing, and are building in the right direction. I think they learned from that McNabb mistake and have decided to build through the draft and sign reasonably priced (and aged) free agents. Last year's off-season was a huge hit for Head Coach Mike Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen. For me, there's no reason to believe they won't continue in the same vein.
Signing Manning would be a 'win now' statement to the league. We're in the middle of building a young core of players that can be the foundation of winning over a long period of time. Bring in Manning to that and we disrupt the core of the team. It adds pressure to them that they have to win now or Shanahan could be out of a job. We are not a quarterback away from contending, so there's a chance that adding Manning would also mean signing Jeff Saturday and/or Reggie Wayne or other veterans, which could stunt the growth of some of our younger prospects.
Manning is a soon-to-be 36 year old quarterback with neck problems. Yes it's Peyton Manning, but Manning is going to command a big contract and control of the offense. He might not even make it through his first game for all we know. If we put all our eggs in the Manning basket and he gets injured, that's the season over. I'm also not so sure how much Shanahan would be willing to let Manning have free-reign over the offense, as he has had during his entire career. Would we install Manning's offense and have the coaching staff learning something new, or try to fit Manning into what we have now? We've already seen how a quarterback who has spent all his career in one offense can struggle in a new offense. Now Manning is a much more intelligent quarterback and I have no doubt he could pick up this offense, but would he want to change after all these years in one system? It's a big question that would have to be answered.
As for the argument that you could just bring in Manning as a tutor and draft a late first or early second round quarterback to develop behind him while we continue to rebuild. Come on, seriously? At this point in his career, Manning will have one thing on his mind, winning Super Bowls. Why would he come to the Redskins to be a mentor as the team continues to rebuild? He didn't really mentor in Indy. He supposedly took every single snap in practice, leaving Curtis Painter no reps at all (part of the reason he was terrible this season, the other part is that he lacks talent in general).
So overall, I doubt that our front office would bring in another quarterback on the wrong side of 30. We are more than a quarterback away from contending. We are still rebuilding and aren't fully ready to be thrust into full-on 'win now' mode yet. Manning's injury is still a big concern and to give him control of the offense would be a big risk. On top of this, what reason exactly does Manning have to want to come to the Redskins? I'm sure there are plenty of other teams that are much closer to contending than the Redskins. The Manning situation will definitely be a very interesting one to watch play-out over the course of the off-season, but I personally, don't see it playing out in Washington.