So there's this quarterback, see...
I'm going to try and make this post readable, despite the oft-visited subject matter. Most observers believe Manning The Elder will land in either New York, Miami, Washington, Seattle (OHMYGOD THAT'S HERE OHMYGOD), Kansas City or Arizona. Secondary landing spots -- according to the same experts who brought you this year's Packers-Ravens Super Bowl -- have tended to include Houston, San Francisco, Cleveland, Jacksonville, and even Tennessee. Recently some folks have gone so far as to suggest Tebowopolis.
We'll see. In the meantime, I'm going to offer a rationale for three places that aren't on anyone's radar. I call them the Surprise Destineytions. (Free spoiler: They aren't the Patriots, the Saints, the Packers or even the Giants.)
And if you don't mind, stick around for the poll at the end. I'm also genuinely curious as to where the Field Gulls community thinks Manning will end up this fall.
1. ST. LOUIS RAMS
Wait, what? The Sam Bradford Rams? Shocking, for sure. Listen to the thinking that would make it happen:
They play in a dome. Attractive to Peyton.
Jeff Fisher is the new coach. Instant credibility and cachet, plus a perceived commitment to excellence.
St. Louis will reap a king's ramsom when it auctions off the second pick in the draft. Peyton could help hand-pick two or three new young studs, if he wanted to. A receiver, a tight end, plus Wayne in tow? Whole new offense.
They're a midwestern/southern team -- Peyton grew up in New Orleans, went to college in Tennessee and played in Indy. Right in his geographical wheelhouse.
The Rams would find a trade partner or two for Bradford. Or he could be the world's most awesomest backup, a la Steve Young. That arrangement didn't exactly hurt the Niners dynasty. And once you sign Manning, you might want a competent backup anyway, right?
Surprise level: OH CRAP
2. CHICAGO BEARS
Yes, Jay Cutler plays there. When healthy. And when not pouting.
I freely admit that last one's a cheap shot. But fact is, Cutler has had a grand total of one good year with Chicago -- that would be 2010, their lone playoff appearance as a QB-franchise collaboration. He owns a career QB rating of 84.5 (I know, QB rating, sorry). He may or may not be well liked in the locker room. Do you spend lots of time in that locker room?
Lovie Smith has no doubt noticed that his quarterback is the third-best in the division, and sits one Christian Ponder breakout season from being the worst NFC North signal-caller.
Granted, the Bears' offensive line is far from stellar, having allowed more than 100 sacks in 2010 and 2011 combined, but if they pledge to use a couple high draft picks on linemen, that could get Peyton's attention. Plus, you could just blame Cutler for Tarvarising the ball all the time and thus dismiss the whole argument.
There's a solid run game in place. Devin Hester -- maybe you've heard of him -- isn't the worst guy you could count on for giving you decent field position and a few extra touchdowns from time to time. And the geography works: Chicago's not a long-distance move, either.
Surprise level: NO EFFIN WAY
3. PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Observers don't warm easily to the idea of Peyton entering the same division as his brother. OK, but who really knows? Peyton hasn't come out and publicly crossed the NFC East off his list. That would be stupid.
From the Eagles' point of view, they have to know that the well-abused Vick has only so many miles left on his body. Peyton would inherit an unbelievably potent offense, a defense with some playmakers, that kick returning guy whatshisname...
Hey, look at this: Philly has approximately $20 million in cap space. No cuts necessary. A winning coach (Reid is 126-81-1 lifetime, good for a .606 mark) is in charge. It's a proud franchise: a winning tradition exists for sure.
Since I finally brought up the cap, this is as good a place as any to say: Who knows if Peyton is in it for the money anyway? He made $13 million in endorsements last year and $14 million from football. He might take a pay cut in one job and get a raise in the other one. Either way, Manning can easily fire up the google and find out the Eagles went 8-8 last year. Maybe he figures he's worth four more wins. That's a division title right there.
Surprise level: AT LEAST IT WASN'T ARIZONA
My sincere thanks for your time. Don't forget about the poll.
Now sign somewhere already, Manning, dammit. It's been 12 hours, or in social media time units, #millennia.
Take off your Seahawks gear for a second and answer this: Which uniform do you honestly believe Peyton Manning will wear next?
Arizona Cardinals (70 votes)
Cleveland Browns (4 votes)
Kansas City Chiefs (32 votes)
Miami Dolphins (287 votes)
New York Jets (27 votes)
Seattle Seahawks (200 votes)
Washington Redskins (17 votes)
Other (specify please) (29 votes)
None. He'll sit out all of 2012 or retire. (12 votes)
678 total votes