Analysis  

 

Manning's perfect match exists in Kansas City

Darron Cummings/AP
After spending the first 14 years of his NFL career in Indianapolis, could Peyton Manning move to Kansas City?

Sometimes we don't write what we think because there's not much to substantiate it. Cool. Now that this issue has been resolved, it's time to discuss a sensible suitor for arguably the greatest quarterback of our generation.

Why? Because, due to a slip of the tongue, the Kansas City Chiefs are getting some run in the Peyton Manning sweepstakes -- a potential pairing that should have been mentioned weeks ago. Kansas City, at least in my mind, has always been the best destination for Manning. There just haven't been many facts to go on. Yet, there is circumstantial evidence.

Before listing the reasons the four-time MVP should be playing at Arrowhead this fall, perhaps it's important to rank what constitutes a good fit between any megastar and a new address:

1. Availability: Obviously, the player has to be attainable. (And Manning should be, barring a Jim Irsay surprise of Mayflower truck proportions.)

2. Organizational leeway: Funds, or at least the wherewithal to generate discretionary funds.

3. Ancillary parts to attract the player: In this case, weapons outside, a good running back, possibly a defense, some chance in hell of winning.

4. A great place to play: Call this "The Anti-Veterans Stadium Principle."

5. Familiarity: Be it the player's familiarity with the front office (and vice versa) or the area.

For Manning and the Chiefs, this list reads: 1) check, 2) check, 3) check, 4) check, and 5) check.

Starting in inverse order, the Chiefs are certainly familiar with Manning, as Crennel and Pioli faced him numerous times while with the New England Patriots. Arrowhead Stadium is one of the loudest locales in pro football, and the passion of the fans in Kansas City make it a great place to play, particularly for a veteran player.

Meanwhile the Chiefs have an emerging young talent in Jon Baldwin, a decent receiver in Steve Breaston, and -- providing he's franchised (it's looking that way) -- the productive Dwayne Bowe. Throw in Jamaal Charles and Tony Moeaki returning from injury, an improving defense and you can see K.C. clearly has the ancillary parts.

On to "organizational leeway," which can mean several things, but usually it applies to available dough and the willingness to spend it. The Chiefs finished over $20 million under the cap in 2011, and per the new CBA rules, can roll it over to this year to add to their already abundant cap space. Done and done. They have the means, whereas the New York Jets -- even after restructuring D'Brickashaw Ferguson's contract -- do not. That leads us to other organizational-leeway issues for alleged Manning suitors:

Arizona Cardinals: What to do with Kevin Kolb and his sizeable contract? Junk the experiment after one year and a foot injury? Maybe, but doubtful. I like the Chiefs better.

Miami Dolphins: Will owner Stephen Ross insist on Manning over Matt Flynn, despite Miami's lack of stability at the position for over a decade, and the fact the Colts star might only play two more years? And despite the fact that Joe Philbin already knows the 26-year-old Flynn backwards and forwards? Still like the Chiefs better.

Washington Redskins: They surely would sign Reggie Wayne to help land Manning (they sorely need WR help anyway). And Mike Shanahan is not on a 20-year contract. However, much like Miami, quarterback is an interminable issue for this franchise. Signing Manning would be a band-aid. Still like the Chiefs better.

Seattle Seahawks: The Seahawks aren't into band-aids at this point. "I just know if you panic at the position, it can set the organization back. So we're not going to do that," GM John Schneider said last week. There you go.

And then there are the Indianapolis Colts, who obviously control issue No. 1 (player availability) for matching a megastar to a team.

While owner Jim Irsay has far from ruled out Manning's return to the organization, tweet salvos and the mano-a-mano nature of "He's not healthy"/ "Yes I am" has played out enough over the past several weeks to merit speculation of the quarterback's departure. The big elephant in the room is the $28 million roster bonus due March 8, and how much Manning would be willing to restructure his deal, thus doing Indy a solid. To that end, Irsay had this to say to SI.com's Don Banks recently:

"That's the last he'd want to do for this team, put us in that kind of salary cap situation," Irsay said. "He wants to come back and he wants to win. I should say I assume he wants to come back. With Peyton, sometimes you never know ... I think he has some real comfort in the idea of finishing his career here, but I think he's conflicted perhaps given the circumstances. We'll find out soon."

Yes, Manning is surely conflicted, perhaps most by something Irsay mentioned in that very quote. He wants to win.

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That's going to be tough, considering several of the Colts' key players are free agents. You know the list: Wayne, Jeff Saturday, Robert Mathis, Pierre Garcon and so on. Secondly, the new head coach is a rookie head coach. And while most Colts fans welcome the change from Jim Caldwell, Chuck Pagano hasn't proven anything yet. Not to mention, Manning likely will have to compete for his own job. Maybe not this year, but how long will new management sit a guy like Andrew Luck if Manning delivers a wild-card loss, like the last time he played? Fair? No. Life in the NFL? Yes.

So of course Manning is conflicted. Why not go to a team that already knows the potential of its own quarterback, and knows Manning is a clear upgrade (Chiefs)? Why not go to a team that -- barring every important guy going on IR -- has the parts to compete in its conference now (Chiefs)? Why not go to a team that, despite how little this might mean to Manning at this stage of his career, can afford to pay him what he deserves (Chiefs)?

Manning is likely to don new colors in 2012. And it certainly will be awkward to see the Colts icon in a foreign uniform. But at least Manning could avoid having to pay a teammate on his new club for the rights to No. 18.

After all, nobody on the Chiefs wears that number.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @Harrison_NFL

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