How to sign Peyton Manning?
It is not as easy as inviting Manning over to the Dolphins facility, shaking his hand, passing him a blank contract and asking him to fill it in and sign. Some fans wouldn't mind the Dolphins operating that way, but that is not the way it's done.
That doesn't mean there aren't several other approaches that range from making it easy on the guy to taking a more in-depth approach that could actually reveal enough reasons not to sign Manning or could be off-putting to Manning.
First, the Dolphins must get from the Manning camp a signal that they are included among the teams he would be interested in joining. I'm told this will be the first step in the process because, although Manning has been contacted by approximately one third of the NFL, he's only interested in a handful of teams at best.
So the initial decision is his in that he will trim teams from consideration.
Assuming the Dolphins are among Manning's handful of favorites, they'll find out if he intends to visit with each team. If that's the case, they already have an advantage because the guy is a 40-minute drive (or 13-minute helicopter ride) from camp. They have the home field advantage!
Beyond that, Miami's braintrust must figure out what exactly they want to see from Manning. Remember, this is not a healthy player we're talking about. Yes, Manning is a star. Yes, he is a future Hall of Famer. But he's not healthy. Not yet anyway.
The Dolphins must decide how much they have to see to convince themselves that its a good idea to hand him the keys to the franchise.
Do the Dolphins need to see Manning throw? I'm sorry but any general manager that accepts that 27-second video as proof Manning is good to go is committing personnel department malpractice. That video proves nothing. So the Dolphins have to ask themselves if they need to see Manning throw a route tree. They have to decided if they must see Manning throw a deep out from the opposite hash mark, a come back, a 9-route, etc...
The Dolphins need to figure out if they must see Manning work out to be sold. Some teams won't sign Manning unless they see this. I think some teams won't require this because, well, desperation is a mighty motivator.
Teams also must decide if they're going to ask Manning for all his medical records. Beyond that, teams must decide if they will buy what those records say, assuming they get a peek, or whether they must also have Manning submit to a physical with team doctors.
Remember, the Colts made the decision to cut Manning without even watching him throw. But Manning's official reason for being cut was that he failed his physical. So can he pass a physical?
(This, by the way, is the step where the Fins got tripped up on the Drew Brees free agency visit. Club doctors recommended Brees not be signed because of his surgically repaired shoulder.)
So that memory, while haunting a different coach and different owner, might still be roaming the halls at Dolphins camp.
The Dolphins must basically decide their comfort level on how much due diligence they're going to do with Manning. They know he's great when he's healthy. But how thorough are they going to be in investigating that health?
And Miami, like all teams, will be making their decisions understanding that other teams might not put Manning through such rigors. Perhaps Manning will be understanding with teams that put him under the microscope. Perhaps he'll get a better vibe from teams that aren't quite so demanding.
No one knows.
So far, not even Manning or the teams.