Peyton Manning is doing something he has never had to do in his professional career: look for a new team to play for.
The long-time Indianapolis Colts star plans on making a decision on a new team within a week, and there are a dozen teams interested in him.
I have no idea who wants me, what team wants me, how this process works, said Manning to a group of reporters on 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.
According to ESPN's sources, seven of the 12 teams have contacted Manning's representatives. Some of the teams are not surprising, like the Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks, Miami Dolphins, and Washington Redskins. Then there are teams with the starting quarterback position rather taken care of like the New York Jets, Kansas City Chiefs, and Denver Broncos, who would rearrange their plans and their offense for Manning.
Manning had started 227-straight games. including the playoffs, in his 13 seasons with the Colts, and led the club to a Super Bowl victory. Questions still persist about the 11-time Pro Bowler's neck after multiple procedures, and whether he can maintain his productivity after sitting out the entire 2011 season.
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I'm throwing it pretty well, said Manning. I still got some work to do. I got some progress to make, but I've come a long way. I've really worked hard. I can't tell you the hours and the time I've put in to working hard...I'll continue to work hard and hopefully keep making some progress.
There is a great deal of speculation about where Manning will end up.
The Redskins and the Cardinals are two clubs Manning should show strong interest in. Both teams could need an elite quarterback, and would easily welcome a new face of the organization.
Internet reports suggest Manning and wide receiver Reggie Wayne may reunite in Miami, a team that finished with a 6-10 record last season. Should Manning find his way into the AFC East, he would have to contend with a New England Patriots team that is coming off a trip to the Super Bowl and a 13-3 regular season record.
Manning wants to win more Super Bowl titles to add to his legacy, but he will probably find it somewhat difficult to make the playoffs with the Dolphins. Though he would have a star wide out in Brandon Marshall, and a 1,000-yard rushing all-purpose back in Reggie Bush, Miami has to compete with the Jets, who under-achieved but still have excellent talent, and the Buffalo Bills, who finished last but with a 6-10 record.
There are many interesting scenarios, but Manning might be best served to go to a club with a great defense. Manning, who will be turning 36 this month, will likely be calling the shots with the offense as he did in Indianapolis, and clubs will find wide receivers for him.
Because making the playoffs is a top priority, Manning may also want to find a division where a 10-win record might guarantee a division title.
Based on the criteria of a strong defense and playing in a weak division, Manning might want to consider the Seattle Seahawks.
The NFC West may have a highly regarded team in the San Francisco 49ers, but the rest of the division is not particulary strong, and the 49ers weren't particularly strong on offense last season. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll is known for being an easy-going guy who places a premium on defense.
Manning can step in and make the Seahawks one of the top teams in the NFC. In 2010, Seattle defied the odds by defeating the New Orleans Saints in the Wild Card playoff game, and then gave the Chicago Bears a tough time in the Divisional Playoff game.
In 2011, Seattle managed just seven victories, but four losses were by three points or less. While Tavaris Jackson threw just 14 touchdowns and was intercepted 13 times, Manning could reshape the offense by adding just one quality receiver.
Seattle isn't exactly a team on the down slope. The Seahawks have a 1,200-yard rusher in Marshawn Lynch, and had 10 players who caught 10 or more passes last season. Meanwhile, the defense conceded just 19.7 points per game (seventh in the NFL) in 2011, and held off the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants on the road.
Seahawks' defensive end Raheem Brock, who played with Manning for eight seasons in Indianapolis, went on Twitter to express his thoughts on reuniiting with the quarterback in Seattle.
Brock posted on Twitter: If Pete Carroll gives up some of his control and works with Peyton Manning, I think Seahawks are a perfect fit. Super bowl contender!
There will be more teams than just the 12 teams interest in Manning, but Seattle might be his best bet.