Peyton Manning's time in Indianapolis is over. It's hard to write those words, as Manning always seemed destined to retire as a member of the Colts. But in 2012, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of the NFL and fantasy football will be wearing a different uniform.
The move was widely expected, according to NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora, due to the fact that the Colts own the first overall pick in April's draft and would have owed Manning a $28 million bonus. The future Hall of Famer has said that he intends to continue his playing career after missing the 2011 season following four operations to repair vertebrae in his neck. NFL Network reporter Albert Breer suggested on Tuesday's NFL Total Access that Manning has looked better in recent weeks.
Furthermore, there was an amateur video on YouTube taken of Manning throwing the football at Duke University. In the footage, he sure looked like the old strong-armed gunslinger that led so many fantasy owners to championship upon championship in the past. A consistent and durable performer before last season, Manning had finished no worse than sixth in fantasy points at his position since 2006. He was also a league leader in fantasy land in 2004, when he threw for 4,557 yards and what was at the time an NFL-record 49 touchdown passes.
So now the question on the minds of fantasy leaguers everywhere is simple: Where will Peyton Manning call home next season?
From a pure fantasy perspective, I'd love to see him land with the Arizona Cardinals. Think about the statistical damage a healthy Manning could do throwing the football to Larry Fitzgerald, one of the league's elite wide receivers, while playing in a division that includes questionable defenses in Seattle and St. Louis? If we assume that Reggie Wayne, also a free agent, decides to follow Manning into the desert, well, that would be one heck of an offense. Manning would be given the reins of the pass attack from coach Ken Whisenhunt, much like he did with Kurt Warner -- and we all know the fantasy impact Warner made late in his career.
Also keep in mind that the Cardinals have had a history of signing older superstars. Aside from Warner, Emmitt Smith and Edgerrin James also wore red and white at the end of their careers.
The Miami Dolphins will also be in hot pursuit, as owner Stephen Ross is reportedly enamored with getting the superstar signal-caller on the roster. That's an attractive scenario as well with Brandon Marshall and Reggie Bush in the mix. Other potential suitors include the Cleveland Browns, Kansas City Chiefs, New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks and Washington Redskins. But I still contend that Manning's best fantasy fit is with the Cardinals. Assuming he has no setbacks with his neck surgeries, he would be a surefire No. 1 fantasy quarterback -- I'd even draft him ahead of his brother, Eli Manning, somewhere between Rounds 4 and 5.
Of course, Manning's departure also means the Colts are all but assured of taking Stanford's Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in the draft. So with Manning back in action, Luck and Robert Griffin III entering the league and players like Jay Cutler, Matt Schaub and Matt Cassel coming back from injuries, the quarterback position is about to get pretty deep in fantasy land.
Michael Fabiano is an award-winning fantasy football analyst on NFL.com. Have a burning question on anything fantasy related? Tweet it to **@Michael_Fabiano** or send a question via **Facebook**!