ESPN's NFL Insider Adam Schefter is reporting that Peyton Manning is aiming to make a decision on what team he will play for next season within a week, according to sources. The sources also told Schefter that Manning would prefer to keep playing in the AFC, but is open to going to the NFC.
Sources say 12 teams reached out to Peyton Manning's representatives on Wednesday, after he was released, to gauge his interest in playing for their teams. Many of the teams already have been publicized, but some inevitably will want to keep it secret.
Of those 12 teams, sources tell ESPN that the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Washington Redskins, Miami Dolphins, Kansas City Chiefs, Denver Broncos and New York Jets have actually been in contact with Manning's representatives.
I think the most notable thing for Cleveland Browns fans to take away from this report is the part about Peyton Manning preferring to stay in the AFC. Of course, Manning will leave all his options open and won't completely rule out playing in the NFC, but if I had to guess, I'd assume that this has something to do with his brother, New York Giants QB Eli Manning playing in the NFC. If indeed that is the case, then we can assume the Washington Redskins are very low on the list of possible teams to land Manning as the Redskins are in the NFC East with the Giants and have to play each other twice a season. The Redskins are also considered to be the Browns biggest competition in trading up for No. 2 pick, currently held by the St. Louis Rams.
However, one of the early front runners for Manning appears to be the Miami Dolphins, who were also considered in play for that No. 2 pick. If Peyton Manning ultimately signs with the Dolphins, that will end any pursuit they were considering for Matt Flynn. That could open the door for Flynn to the Redskins, which again will result in eliminating the Browns two biggest competitors for the No. 2 pick and likely driving down the price, at least to some extent. This is all speculation at this point. But, as we pointed out a few weeks ago, Manning will be the first domino this offseason. One that will likely fall within a week.
The Indianapolis Colts officially released Manning yesterday and he is eligible to negotiate and sign with teams after clearing waivers today. Unlike traditional free agents that reached the end of their contract, Manning does not have to wait until the free agency period begins on March 13.
When asked about this process by reporters after landing in Miami, Manning seemed understandably coy:
"I have no idea who wants me, what team wants me, how this process works," Manning told a group of reporters in South Florida, where he has a home and flew after the news conference Wednesday. "I don't know if it's like college recruiting where you go take visits. I mean, this is all so new to me."