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Should They, Will They? Peyton Manning and the Eagles

Feb 15, 2012, 3:00 PM EDT

It's widely assumed the front office will not pay, and Manning will wind up a free agent in the next few weeks. There are already whispers as to where he could wind up, but there is a murmur in Philadelphia. Should the Eagles pursue a Super Bowl-winning signal caller if he becomes available?

You’ve no doubt heard the rumbling out of Indianapolis. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is currently locked in a staring contest with the Colts over a $28 million bonus due on March 8.

Manning, of course, has not played football in over a year, and various reports indicate he is not fully recovered from multiple neck surgeries, the most recent of which he underwent in September. Meanwhile, the team owns the first pick in April’s draft, and they are expected to choose quarterback and “can’t-miss” prospect Andrew Luck.

It’s widely assumed the front office will not pay, and Manning will wind up a free agent in the next few weeks. There are already whispers as to where he could wind up, and there is even a murmur in Philadelphia. Should the Eagles pursue a Super Bowl-winning signal caller if he becomes available?

Colts owner Jim Irsay officially dropped the gauntlet on Tuesday, telling Mike Chappell of the Indianpolis Star he wants Peyton “to make the choice” to stay. In other words, Manning can remain with the organization that drafted him in 1998, as long as he is willing to renegotiate his contract.

In certain circumstances, that option might make sense, but Manning is better off testing the market at this point.

The Colts are in the midst of a complete rebuild, so most of the players, coaches, and executives Manning worked with are either gone or on the way out. It does not appear the team can easily compete for a championship next season — with or without Peyton — and with his replacement due to arrive during the offseason, a low-ball offer seems likely.

Manning stands to make far more money, and perhaps find a better opportunity to win now, by negotiating with a bunch of desperate franchises that are clinging to the hope a veteran quarterback might put them over the top.

Believe it or not, some people think the Eagles should be among the teams who pursue the four-time league MVP — provided he is healthy, of course.

The first problem with that idea is Michael Vick.

For better or worse, the Eagles are essentially married to Vick for at least one more season. Vick’s entire $12.5 million salary is guaranteed in 2012, so it’s not like cutting him is an option, and that dollar amount coupled with whatever Manning expects to earn is far too much to invest in one position, in case you were actually entertaining the ridiculous notion of keeping both of them.

That leaves a trade, but shipping Vick out is not likely to happen either. Even if they found a partner willing to take on his contract — and this is actually the easy part given its favorable structure, with the bulk of the guarantees paid off by the end of 2012 — the Eagles would be hard-pressed to find fair compensation for a 32-year-old quarterback coming off a subpar, injury-riddled season.

Even supposing the return on Vick is not as important as the upgrade at quarterback brings us to issue number two: you are operating on the assumption Manning is, in fact, an upgrade at all.

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This would be dangerous thinking.

There remains a very real possibility Peyton Manning will never play football again. Sure, he says he will, and no doubt Peyton is determined to get back on the field, but doesn’t this situation set off some red flags?

Manning is trying to come back from multiple neck surgeries. As recently as six months ago, he sought stem cell therapy in Europe. He is finally tossing the pigskin around, but several initial reports claim there is a distinct drop in his velocity, and he has trouble or is unable to throw deep or across his body.

Manning turns 36 in March, which puts him well out of his prime, as he attempts to regain physical abilities that made him great. Should he somehow manage to overcome all of the adversity, it’s very hard to believe he could ever be the same player.

Is 75% of Peyton Manning capable of winning a Super Bowl, and still better than 90% of the NFL’s starting quarterbacks? Maybe, maybe not, but what about 50% of Peyton Manning? 25%? There is no question he has the football IQ to outlast his talent to a certain extent, which may make him effective enough to lengthen his career.

Yet there are dozens of guys who have hung around after their abilities had already eroded, and never won a thing.

Vick, for all his flaws, at least has his physical gifts still largely intact. A tick or two have no doubt been shaved off that 40 time, but he can still sling the rock, can still turn the corner on would-be tacklers, and can still create big, explosive plays.

Honestly, there is no discussion for Peyton Manning in Philadelphia right now. There is no guarantee he ever plays again, no guarantee he makes the Eagles better even if he does, and that’s without a proper debate about Mike Vick’s value, trade and otherwise.

When Manning hits free agency in the next few weeks, and the Arizonas and Miamis and Washingtons go searching for lightning in a bottle, as those franchises are wont to do, the Eagles should sit back and let them fight over the scraps. Vick might not be perfect, may never lead Philadelphia to the promised land, but at least we know what we are getting.

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Manning-fied Eagles’ logo via Dave’s Art Locker. Check out Manning face logos for every team in the league.