The clock is still ticking on the Great Peyton Manning Chase of 2012, and there seems to be a new twist every week. Many fans are tired of the story, but this is a situation that occurs so incredibly rarely, we as fans of the NFL will be talking about this for decades to come. The greatest pure quarterback of his generation, and arguably one of the greatest of all time, doesn't often go on the auction block, free to choose his destiny, so it's a good idea to keep tabs of the situation purely for posterity's sake. However, Manning apparently told the Redskins "no" fairly early in the proceedings, and the franchise has turned in a record-breaking draft trade for the opportunity to draft and develop one of two incredible prospects at the position next year. Given that, should 'Skins fans pay any more attention to this story? I'll tell you why we should.
Manning seems to have narrowed down his options to three teams: Denver, San Francisco and Tennessee. Miami is moving on to focus on Matt Flynn, the Jets have thrown Mark Sanchez a surprisingly large lifeline and Arizona today swallowed a $7mil roster bonus to keep Kevin Kolb on the squad, which would seem to indicate a negative outlook on bringing Peyton to the desert. That leaves the above three teams as logical targets for Manning to consider, and barring a major curveball, one of the three will bring the circus to town.
The key here is that the Redskins are going to be in need of a quality backup quarterback not named Grossman or Beck. With Manning taking over as the starter for any team he could sign for, there will be former starters and former backups needing jobs as that team makes cuts to fit Manning under the salary cap. As it turns out, the teams he has narrowed his choice down to have some pretty decent options on their rosters that will soon be looking for real estate in another city.
Denver: In my personal opinion, this is the most likely place for Manning to sign. Unfortunately, of the three teams, Denver also has the weakest current QB situation, meaning the guy(s) hitting the street won't be as high quality or experienced as the others. Tim Tebow is an enigma worthy of its own fanpost, but suffice it to say he should be allowed no closer to the quarterback position in DC than John Beck next season. Denver is also unlikely to let Tebow go, or even trade him, due to the fans' zombie-like allegiance to His Timness. The one to watch here is Brady Quinn. Quinn has never totally put it together in the NFL, but he did have enough skill coming out of college to make him the second quarterback drafted in 2007. With the right teaching and work, which Coach Shanahan and his staff are positioned to provide, Quinn could salvage his career while providing quality backup service to the team, which will hopefully entail more mop-up duty than emergency play.
San Francisco: This is a truly interesting situation. Alex Smith has been a general disappointment since his entry into the league, and the success of Aaron Rogers after being passed over with the first pick of that draft only makes it seem worse. However, Smith gets something of a bum rap due to his rocky start. His stats have generally improved each season, and last year he threw for over 3,000 yards in a run-heavy offense with over 60% completions and a 17:5 TD to INT ratio. Those might not be wow-inducing numbers, but they're solid, and the career improvement is a positive note. Smith is a free agent, but is a lock to resign with San Francisco if the Niners fail to land Manning. If they succeed in luring #18 out west, Smith will almost certainly be changing addresses. This is probably the best option for the Redskins, but there's no guarantee another QB-needy team like Seattle or Cleveland won't try to land Smith and give him an honest opportunity to win the starting job. San Fran also has Colin Kaepernick on the roster, but he is still raw and has no starting experience in the league, so probably not a great option to back up a rookie starter, and the Niners are unlikely to put him on the market after trading up to get him.
Tennessee: The Titans have a dilemma on their hands. They have an aging vet with a bit left in the tank in Matt Hasselbeck, and a second year player in Jake Locker who showed flashes in limited play last year but also showed why some teams shied away from him in the draft. Locker played in five games and threw 4 TDs to no INTs, but only completed 51% of his passes. He also rushed for a touchdown. It was previously stated by the Tennessee brass that there would be an open competition for the starting QB position in 2012, but if Manning goes back "home" to the Volunteer state, that notion becomes more than laughable. The question becomes, which one stays and which one goes? On the surface it's obvious: Hasselbeck beats feet and Locker learns from one of the best to ever play the game. However, consider the style of play; Manning is your classic drop-back, stand in the pocket and deliver the ball kind of QB, as is Hasselbeck. Locker is not at all that sort of passer, depending instead on athleticism and getting out of the pocket to manipulate the defense. It would be a tough pill for the franchise to swallow after spending a first round pick on him, but it's possible Locker would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. It strikes me that RG3 has some of those same elements to his game, though he is considerably more polished than Locker was coming out of college, and Locker might be worth at least a casual inquiry. If things go the conventional wisdom way, Hasselbeck would bring a veteran presence to the backup position a lá Todd Collins, someone who could take over in a game or start a game or two without having to worry about his experience or composure.
We'll see how things break down in regards to Manning himself in the coming days or weeks. The fan of the Game in all of us will understand the meaning to the league and history when he signs on the dotted line for someone, but the fan of the Redskins in us should be more interested in who is getting pushed out in the deal, as they could very well be wearing Burgundy next season.