The news that Peyton Manning will be headed to Denver broke on Monday, bringing an end to the so-called “Manning Sweepstakes” and the interminable speculation that accompanied it. Assuming Manning is relatively healthy, the Broncos must be considered contenders in the AFC. Should Denver be favorites to win a Super Bowl? No, but they should not be overlooked as a dangerous team either.
Beyond the obvious impact the move has on Denver and the rest of the AFC West (which the Broncos will be expected to win for a second straight year), the move will almost certainly have an unprecedented ripple effect on a number of other teams.
The Manning news, as well as Matt Flynn’s arrival in Seattle, means at least one quarterback needy team may soon be thoroughly disappointed. In addition to Denver, Miami, San Francisco, Arizona, and Tennessee were at one point serious contenders for Manning as well.
In paying a roster bonus to Kevin Kolb, the Cardinals decided to settle with the former Eagle as their signal caller for 2012. As for Tennessee, they are not exactly in a dire situation at the position, with last year’s first round pick Jake Locker in the fold.
This leaves San Francisco, who parted ways with Alex Smith presumably to make a play for Manning, and Miami. ESPN is reporting that Smith has met with the Dolphins, and the 49ers will presumably attempt to bring him back to San Francisco.
The team that loses out on Smith will be in an unenviable position. Having both already been spurned by Manning, the prospect of losing Smith would leave the 49ers with Colin Kaepernick, and the Dolphins with either Matt Moore or David Garrard as their likely starter if another quarterback is not added.
Another effect of Manning’s arrival in Denver will be Tim Tebow becoming available. The Broncos will reportedly attempt to trade the former Heisman winner now that Manning is on board. It will be interesting to see what the demand for Tebow is. Jacksonville will presumably be the favorites to land the north Florida product, and Tebow could make sense for the Dolphins as well, given that they could be particularly desperate for a quarterback.
In any event, although Manning has found a new team, the drama and speculation is just beginning.