Peyton Manning was destined to rule the offseason. He has, and will continue to, in more ways than one.
The Colts’ decision to release Manning on Tuesday has created a frenzy in the NFL. Perhaps the best player to ever hit the open market, Manning has the entire sports world wondering whether it will be Miami, Denver, Arizona or someplace else for the four-time MVP.
Assuming his neck is fully recovered and he’s back in playing shape, Manning is expected to have an enormous impact on whichever team he chooses to sign with, yet that’s not all he’s affecting. His status as a free agent will have a big impact on the NFL Draft. Here’s how:
The Redskins are going to have to make a huge push for RGIII
[UPDATE ] 10:50 p.m: The Redskins made a huge push for RGIII. They traded No. 4, No. 38, and first-round picks in the next two drafts to St. Louis in exchange for the second overall pick. We'll leave this section as it was before.
Manning reportedly told the Redskins he won’t be signing with them. That should be reported music to the Rams' ears.
The line of thinking here is that the Browns have to do whatever they can to move up two spots and secure Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick. Colt McCoy is not the answer, and though Browns fans may be shell-shocked from first-round quarterback blunders (Tim Couch, Brady Quinn), Griffin is the type of player that can put a disastrous franchise on the fast(er) track to respectability.
The Browns have plenty of ammunition to make the move to No. 2. They hold the No. 4, 22 (from the Falcons thanks to last year’s trade in which Atlanta moved up for Julio Jones) and 36 at the top of this year’s draft, plus they have their own first-rounder from next year to dangle. While it shouldn’t take three first-round picks to get the deal done, the Browns would have enough to move up should the price become astronomically high. And maybe the price will get astronomically high, because if there’s one thing that Manning’s unwillingness to go to Washington suggests, it’s that the Redskins will have to go after RGIII if they want to come out of this offseason with a true star quarterback.
There are value charts out there that fans can often use to try to gauge what each pick is worth, and what it would take to move up a certain number of spots, but those charts don’t take into consideration the biggest factor: the player at stake.
Look back to 2008, when a top-10-picking team moved up a few spots. The Saints, picking 10th overall, were interested in trading up to No. 7, where the Patriots were picking thanks to their 2007 draft-day trade with the 49ers. In order to get the deal done, the Saints gave up their third-round pick and took the Patriots’ fifth-rounder.
That was to secure a defensive tackle (USC’s Sedrick Ellis). In 2004, the Browns gave up a second-round pick to move up one spot from No. 7 to No. 6 for a tight end (Kellen Winslow Jr.).
But when a quarterback’s on the line, teams have much more leverage ifthey want to demand a king’s ransom. The prime example of this is the haul that the Chargers got from the Giants in 2004 after San Diego selected Eli Manning. In order to get the player chosen three spots earlier, New York traded Philip Rivers (the fourth overall pick), their third-round pick (No. 65, which the Chargers spent on kicker Nate Kaeding, their first-round pick in 2005 (which ended up being 12th overall and was spent on linebacker Shawn Merriman) and their fifth-round pick in 2005 (which ended up being traded to the Buccaneers for tackle Roman Oben) to San Diego. It was a massive package for a swap of picks three spots away from each other, but the Giants still ended up winning the trade.
That’s why the Rams have to know that they can command at least what the Chargers got. The Browns have the higher pick and more assets to make the move, but the Redskins might be more desperate.
Going to a team that already has a quarterback means one more asset
Plenty of teams that could be in the hunt for Manning already have serviceable (or better) quarterbacks. If one of those teams signs Manning, they can flip their former starter to another team, presumably for draft picks, and immediately begin improving Manning’s supporting cast.
Take the Broncos, with whom Manning was reportedly set to meet Friday night. If John Elway can lure Manning to Denver, that might mean the end of Tim Tebow’s nothing-if-not-entertaining stay in Denver.
Tebow might not net the Broncos a first-round pick, but do you think the Jaguars, after a season of (hopefully) realizing the mistake they made with Blaine Gabbert, wouldn’t give up the 39th overall pick to bring the golden boy back home? If Tebow couldn’t improve Jacksonville’s offense, he would at the very least improve the attendance.
Same goes for Arizona. If they sign Manning, there’s no use in having Kevin Kolb stick around, and he probably wouldn’t want to stay anyway. Kolb was traded for a second-round pick and a former first-rounder (Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie) just an offseason ago, and though he suffered various injuries and a concussion over the course of his first season in Arizona, one would think he’d be worth at least a third-round pick on the trade market.
If Manning goes to either of those teams and last season’s starters get traded, the picks received could help make Manning’s situation better. If it’s the Broncos, they could use the pick received for Tebow to improve the team’s running backs. Miami’s Lamar Miller, Boise St.’s Doug Martin and Virginia Tech’s David Wilson should all be available in the second round.
If the Cardinals end up signing Manning and elect to trade Kolb, the pick could go toward getting a better right guard. Wisconsin’s Kevin Zeitler comes to mind if he can be had in the second or third round. The Cardinals would also be wise to add another receiver, but they could do that by signing Reggie Wayne or spending the 13th overall pick on a Kendall Wright or Michael Floyd.
If Manning creates QB shuffling, it could hurt Ryan Tannehill
Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill is the third-best quarterback in this year’s draft. Last year, the third quarterback in the draft (Gabbert) was taken 10th overall. While Tannehill, a quarerback-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback, probably doesn’t have a top-10 grade, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him go as high as sixth overall (Washington) due to team needs.
Yet if this offseason sees a massive shuffle of quarterbacks, that could hurt Tannehill. Should the four teams in the top 10 with definite quarterback needs (Colts, Browns, Redskins, Dolphins) all wind up with signal-callers, Tannehill will begin a slide that will cost him.
Such a scenario isn’t too unlikely. The Colts will take Andrew Luck, obviously. After that, it can be assumed that either the Browns, Redskins or Dolphins will land Griffin, though the Dolphins are believed to be in the hunt for Manning. If Manning signs with Miami and either the Browns or Redskins get RGIII, that leaves one spot in the top 10 for Tannehill.
If the Redskins are the team that gets Griffin, it would be hard to imagine the Browns drafting Tannehill fourth overall. That’s way too high for a prospect who is no sure thing, so they could either revisit the idea at No. 22 if he’s still there or pass on him altogether. There’s also the possibility that whichever team doesn’t get RGIII or Manning could go after a free-agent quarterback, such as Packers backup Matt Flynn.
Should Tannehill fall out of the top 10, potential suitors might include the Chiefs (picking at No. 11), Seahawks (No. 12), Jets (No. 16), Browns (No. 22) or Broncos (No. 25). Some of those teams, such as the Chiefs and Jets, might be content with their current starters and some might not value Tannehill where they’re picking, so it will be interesting to see whether, and just how far, he falls.