There are a lot of talking heads filled with hot air talking about where Peyton Manning is going to sign. This has finally become a real issue due to his release from the Colts and apparent health as shown in the Zapruder film cell phone video of his practice at Duke. From my perspective, after listening to many of the arguments, there are less than five locations that actually make sense. Let's go team by team, starting with the easy ones.
The Giants, Patriots, Packers, Steelers, Falcons, Lions, and Ravens all went to the playoffs this past season and are comfortable with their quarterbacks. The Saints could be added to that group if they signed Drew Brees to a long-term contract, but they used the franchise tag on him and will not go for Peyton. The Panthers and Bengals had great performances from their rookie quarterbacks. The Bears, Chargers, Cowboys, and Eagles had underperforming and injured quarterbacks last season that are all entrenched in their positions and are stars of their teams. And, of course, the Colts released Peyton and will most likely be drafting Andrew Luck.
The next tier of teams could be benefitted by signing Peyton, but it's not going to happen. The Rams play their home games in a dome like the Colts, but Sam Bradford is a good player and deserves the chance that they will be giving him by trading the number two pick. Ryan Fitzpatrick received a big contract extension from the Bills, and Peyton will not want to play in those elements. The Titans have Jake Locker waiting in the wings, possibly to start at the beginning of this upcoming season. And let's get this one out of the way: the Jets talk is out of control, and despite Woody Johnson's infatuation with the star quarterback (see: Favre, Brett), Mark Sanchez is a capable quarterback and Rex Ryan would not want the spotlight off of him. Kevin Kolb was injured last season and has a lot of guaranteed money still coming to him, so it will not be easy for the Cardinals to cut or trade him. The Browns would be better off with a young quarterback through the draft or Matt Flynn in their rebuild, and the Vikings will be going with second-year player Christian Ponder. The Raiders should probably try to get something out of Carson Palmer to justify that huge mid-season trade.
Another group of teams could create openings at their starting quarterback position even more easily, but will not be seeing Peyton play for them. The Texans and 49ers both have decent quarterbacks, but Matt Schaub has only one year left on his contract and Alex Smith is a free agent who had his only good season in this past one. While they will seemingly be in the running, they are focused on their defensive prowess which is complimented by decent quarterback play, meaning Peyton will not fit as a star. The Chiefs will be holding a competition between Kyle Orton and Matt Cassel, and the Buccaneers will likely want to keep developing Josh Freeman with a head coach new to the NFL. The Broncos are an interesting case, with noted lightning rod Tim Tebow at the helm, but this is not an ideal location for Peyton in the elements of Denver. Another team that the media is pushing as a favorite for Peyton is the Redskins, especially due to Dan Snyder's deep pockets. However, if the Manning brothers do not want to play in the same conference to supposedly block one from the playoffs or Super Bowl, they were certainly not be playing in the NFC East together. The Redskins should spend their time trying to trade up for Robert Griffin III instead.
That leaves three teams that will be in the running for Manning's services. The Dolphins appear to be the favorite with an owner that has shown to be crazy and willing to throw around money, but he may not be able to woo Peyton as was the case with potential head coach Jeff Fisher. The two Chads, Henne and Pennington, are not inspiring much confidence in Miami, but Pennington would be a serviceable backup. CBS would be foaming at the mouth to air at least one Peyton Manning-Tom Brady matchup, with the other likely being taken by NBC or ESPN. The Dolphins played the Giants last season, so they will not be facing each other again for four more years, in case the Mannings do not want a showdown. The Seahawks have no viable options at quarterback, but they do play in the NFC, which would make Peyton a closer competitor to Eli. Pete Carroll would love to have a star quarterback to coach in the NFL since he saw many of them during his time at USC. The Seahawks are not guaranteed to face the Giants until 2014, but could play them in 2013 if they finish in the same standings position as the Giants in this upcoming season; they are not scheduled to play each other in 2012. The Jaguars are a big dark horse candidate with a new owner who wants to sell enough tickets to prevent local blackouts even without tarps covering much of the upper-level seating. Their rookie quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, did not show much last season, and there is familiarity being in the same division as the Colts for the last several seasons. It's hard to say whether Peyton would relish the chance to play against the Colts twice per season as Brett Favre did against the Packers, but it probably doesn't make a difference to Peyton either way as the parting with the Colts was pleasant. As another AFC team candidate, this will be one to watch. Their next game against the Giants will be in 2014.
After all is said and done, I expect Peyton Manning to in fact be taking his talents to South Beach for the 2012 NFL season.