Peyton Manning has been officially released by the Indianapolis Colts today. He can sign with another team as early as 4:01 p.m. Thursday or when the transaction hits the NFL wire.
So where is he actually going?
Well, the offshore gaming parlors have established the Dolphins as 2-1 favorites to land the former Pro Bowl and future Hall of Fame quarterback.
Washington, Arizona, Seattle, the Jets, and Chiefs are among the other teams expected to chase Manning to some degree.
But what team will be most attractive to Manning?
First, let me tell you what I have been told by a league source. Manning is not a big fan of playing in cold, crappy weather if he can help it. All things being equal, he'd rather play in a warm climate or domed home stadium. No, the climate thing is not a deal-breaker, I'm told, but it is important because even Manning and his "people" recognize he's had much greater success in good weather or indoor games throughout his career.
That suggests the Chiefs, Seattle and Jets will have to deal with something of a disadvantage as they all play home games in outdoor stadiums where it can get treacherous late int he season.
Next, people close to Manning, those who worked with him for years are not buying the idea of Manning going to the Washington Redskins. On this former Colts general manager Bill Polian and former Colts coach Tony Dungy agree and the reason is simple:
Manning doesn't like the idea of facing his brother Eli twice a year.
"I think it would be tough for him to be in the NFC East and play twice a year and potentially knock Eli out of the playoffs," Dungy said on ESPN today. "I don't think he would want to be in direct competition with Eli and the New York Giants."
Polian added that every time Peyton played Eli in the past it "wore on him." Polian pretty much eliminated the Redskins. So there's that.
I've also been told that while it is not a prerequisite of his signing, Manning would probably like adding players that he's comfortable with. The most obvious of these is his go-to receiver Reggie Wayne, who is an unrestricted free agent.
Wayne, who played for the University of Miami, would seem like a natural addition with the Dolphins if Manning really, truly wants the security of having a familiar receiver. Speaking of receivers, I can tell you that Miami alpha receiver Brandon Marshall greatly approves of the idea of adding Manning.
I talked to Marshall a couple of weeks ago and he spoke of spending some time at an endorsement event with Manning during Super Bowl week. No, it wasn't a full-on recruiting moment by Marshall, but he told me the idea of adding Manning was one he welcomed.
Marshall, however, was not the only big-time receiver to spend some time with Manning during Super Bowl week. Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald similarly spent time with Manning. The Cardinals invested heavily in Kevin Kolb last season. They gave him a big contract that included a $10 million signing bonus and they traded away Dominque Rogers-Cromartie to the Eagles for Kolb.
But Kolb's status in Arizona is tenuous because he didn't have a great 2011 season and he has a $7 million option bonus due March 17. The Cardinals could easily decline the option and shift their focus onto Manning.
My educated guess is Arizona presents the greatest threat to the Dolphins as both teams try to lure Manning. Arizona plays in a retractable roof stadium. The talent is more or less on par with the Dolphins and, in fact, the Cardinals can argue their 8-8 record last season suggests they're better than Miami.
The Dolphins have the edge that Manning already has a condo in South Florida so he likes it here. As was reported first here, Manning was working out in South Florida while the rest of the NFL was chasing him all over Indianapolis during the combine.
That's the lay of the land. The NFL wire's release will signal the start of the chase.