Following the news out of Indianapolis on Wednesday – that the Colts had released quarterback Peyton Manning – expect the Seattle Seahawks to be one of a handful of teams around the league lining up for his services.
After Manning missed all of the 2011 season because of neck surgery the week before the regular season started, he was released by the Colts who would have owed him a $28 million roster bonus today.
But Manning, who turns 36 on March 24, said during his press conference in Indianapolis he’s not ready to retire.
“Nobody loves their job more than I do,” he said. “Nobody loves playing quarterback more than I do. I still want to play.”
The Seahawks reportedly contacted Manning’s camp once his name hit the waiver wire Wednesday afternoon to express their interest.
But Manning, not Seattle, will decide his next destination. With as much money as he has made during his 14-year NFL career – at least $170 million – Manning’s decision will not be solely a financial one. The team that provides the best opportunity to win a Super Bowl will likely be favored.
The Seahawks hope Manning believes that is Seattle.
For the Seahawks, a key issue will be coaxing Manning and his family to take a trip across three time zones to the Pacific Northwest so the team’s power brokers can show the 11-time Pro Bowl quarterback – and four-time league MVP – all the region has to offer.
If that’s achieved, expect Seattle coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider to apply a full-court press to prove to the shrewd Manning that the team can meet his demand as a Super Bowl contender.
Money should not be an issue for Seattle. According to cap specialist Brian McIntyre of Football Outsiders, the Sea-hawks have more than $30 million in projected salary cap space heading into the new league year, so they have plenty of room to bring in Manning – depending on how high his price tag escalates.
Here are some things the Seahawks might point to as they attempt to sway Manning’s decision.
GROUND AND POUND
By signing running back Marshawn Lynch to a long-term deal, the Seahawks assured their continued reliance on a physical running game. So an aging Manning won’t be asked to carry the entire offense.
Expect a more balanced attack with Manning deftly managing the game. And Seattle likely will not finish with zero fourth-quarter comebacks – as it did last season – with Manning in the lineup.
Also, offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has experience working with talented players with strong egos from his time with Brett Favre in Green Bay and Minnesota, and will tailor Seattle’s passing offense to fit Manning’s strengths.
WEAPONS ON OFFENSE
Offensive tackle Russell Okung is coming off a season-ending pectoral injury, but when healthy he gives Manning a Pro Bowl-caliber left tackle protecting his blind side.
Offensive line/assistant head coach Tom Cable proved he can assemble and coach a productive line, both in pass protection and the running game.
Seattle also has underrated talent at receiver. Sidney Rice is returning from offseason surgery on both shoulders and concussion issues that cut short his 2011 season. But if healthy, Rice gives Manning a true No. 1 receiver.
Zach Miller is a Pro Bowl-caliber tight end who should factor more into Seattle’s passing offense in his second season. Seattle’s leading receiver last year, Doug Baldwin, gives Manning a reliable slot option similar to what Brandon Stokley provided in Indianapolis.
Mike Williams is only two years removed from posting a team-leading 65 catches in 2010. And the Seahawks have several other young players ready to emerge, including Golden Tate, Ben Obomanu, Deion Butler, Ricardo Lockette and Kris Durham.
ROOM FOR WAYNE
The Seahawks would be willing to bring in another Indianapolis free agent – Reggie Wayne, a talented Pro Bowl player in his own right – to help ease Manning’s transition to a new offense.
And age 33, Wayne still has some gas left in the tank. He finished with 75 catches, 960 yards and four touchdowns last season for the Colts with Manning sidelined.
An aggressive, ball-hawking defense can be an aging quarterback’s best friend, and Seattle is developing into one of the dominant defenses in the league.
The Seahawks sent three of their four players from the secondary to the Pro Bowl last season, finished ninth in total defense and forced 31 turnovers – tied for fifth in the league.
Seattle is an edge pass rusher away from being one of the top defenses in the NFC.
One of the reasons former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck cited for his success in his final season in Seattle in 2010 was the arrival of Carroll.
Hasselbeck enjoyed the positive approach, overall structure and accountability Carroll brought with him from USC. And he said Seahawks strength coach Chris Carlisle’s offseason conditioning program better prepared him for the duration of the season.
As a workout warrior who is known for his meticulous preparation and expects the same from his teammates, Manning could see a similar environment in Seattle. Specifically, Carroll and Manning are of like minds, and could benefit from working with each other.
Seahawks team physician Stan Herring is on the league’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee, and he specializes in spine treatment at his private practice. So the Seahawks will have both a good evaluation of where Manning stands with his neck before signing him, along with a good understanding of how to rehabilitate and protect him.
The Seahawks also have a first-class workout facility sitting on the shores of Lake Washington, which could serve as an enticement should Manning visit Seattle.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org
Predicting Peyton’s Place
Several teams will be in the hunt for recently released Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, but these six are likely ahead of the pack. We rank them one through six in attempting to predict Manning’s likely destination.
Manning has a home there, the Dolphins have a good defense and offensive pieces such as Reggie Bush and Brandon Marshall. Colts WR Reggie Wayne, soon to be a free agent, would fit nicely into Miami’s scheme. And Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is willing to spend big to help ticket sales.
The Redskins also have an owner – Dan Snyder – who has shown a willingness to spend big money on free agents. Manning would join a team with a solid defense to give Washington a chance to compete for an NFC East title.
The Seahawks can create some flexibility on offense, and having Marshawn Lynch would decrease stress on Manning to shoulder the load. Also, Seattle coach Pete Carroll will create a competitive, organized environment that holds players accountable – something the Type A Manning craves.
The Cardinals play in a controlled environment – a dome – offering a solid defense and have one of the best receivers in the game in Larry Fitzgerald. But they already made a significant financial investment at quarterback in Kevin Kolb.
5. N.Y. Jets
With younger brother Eli already playing for the Giants, two Mannings in the Big Apple may be too much. Peyton Manning would face rival Tom Brady and the Patriots in the AFC East twice a year. The Jets would have to put Mark Sanchez’s career on hold, but the team offers a talented defense and a stout offensive line to protect the aging quarterback.
6. Kansas City
Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel has said his team would be crazy to not at least consider Manning if he’s available, and he is. However, Kansas City is in the third year of a six-year, $62 million contract for Matt Cassel.
Eric D. Williams, staff writer