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65 posts from March 2012

March 13, 2012

What's most important to Manning? Relationship

It has been argued that because Peyton Manning is so thorough in his approach to football, he is going to approach his search for a new team the same way. He's going to analyze a team's talent, salary cap, offensive line, relative strength within its division, all that before deciding where he'll land.

And that is probably correct. But none of those are the most important aspect of his search for a landing spot where he'll continue his career.

So what is that No. 1 variable that he's judging in the teams he's considering?


The Dolphins, who spent five hours with Manning Monday afternoon and evening, came away from their visit believing Manning is looking for a comfort zone, a group of people he can be at peace with and find a bond with. The club representatives that met with Manning during their meeting in Indianapolis did the best they could to make Manning feel like he'd be at home with the club.

They do not know if they succeeded. Nobody but Manning really knows, regardless of how plugged in any pundit (including me) tries to convince you they are on the matter.

Peyton Manning will probably decide which team he'll go to based on his comfort level with the people he expects he'll be working with, including coaches, general managers, assistants and perhaps teammates.

That is why Manning probably took his trips to Denver and Arizona first. That is where he feels the greatest sense of relationship going into the process. He is friends and respect Arizona coach Ken Whisenhunt based on a bond forged years ago at the Pro Bowl.

He feels a kinship to Denver's John Elway based on their mutual experiences. He also knows coach John Fox.

Today he was reportedly meeting with the Tennesee Titans. He's quite familiar with the state, having played for the University of Tennessee Volunteers once upon a time. He's heard stories about coach Mike Munchak from father Archie Manning because they were teammates once.

And this: The Titans Monday confirmed the hiring of Dennis Polian, the son of former Colts General Manager Bill Polian, to serve as a personal assistant to Munchak. Polian is very familiar with Manning and vice versa and it is possible he will be present in the meeting between Manning and Munchak.


So what did the Dolphins offer in this regard? I do not know. The Dolphins aren't saying. It's a state secret. But my guess is it probably couldn't have been very compelling.

The truth is Miami's coaching staff doesn't have any strong bonds to Manning. Yes, offensive coordinator Mike Sherman reportedly recruited Manning to Texas A&M in the 1990s. But that seems to be it.

Unless the Dolphins got Dan Marino (a Manning friend) or Bill Parcells (a Manning confidant) or yesterday hired Cooper (the QB'solder brother) or Tom Moore (Manning's offensive coordinator in Indy) to come along on the trip, the ties the bind Manning to the Dolphins seem flimsy.

No, the Dolphins Monday were actually trying to build a relationship rather than rekindle one. On his other meetings Manning seems to be rekindling with people in Arizona, Denver and perhaps even Tennessee.

Does this mean the Dolphins have no shot at Manning? Not necessarily. Obviously Manning took this meeting because on some level he thinks it might work in Miami. Former teammate Reggie Wayne has been in Manning's ear about joining the Dolphins and making things work there. Wayne is a former University of Miami standout.

Manning also likes South Florida. He lives here part of the year and his wife is said to love it here.

But can the Dolphins consider themselves leaders with Manning on the relationship front? Even one member of the organization admits that isn't so.

In that regard, Denver is probably the leader, followed by Arizona, then Tennessee, then the Dolphins. So yes, the Dolphins have a lot of ground to make up on this all important issue. Does it kill their cause and chances?

No. But it definitely isn't helping.

If Dolphins don't get Manning they'll chase Flynn

The Dolphins returned from their five-hour meeting with Peyton Manning late last night content they had done their best to land the biggest prize on the free agent market. But they are prepared, if necessary, to move on from Manning if/when they hear they're no longer in contention for the perennial Pro Bowl quarterback.

And that next move is trying to sign Matt Flynn.

The club has determined Flynn would be the next best answer to their quarterback problem. And for the record, this problem has gone on for a looooong time. The Dolphins have not had a Pro Bowl quarterback since Don Shula left in January of 1996. The Dolphins are the only AFC team that has not had a Pro Bowl quarterback in that entire time.

And you wonder why fans are desperate?

In a quarterback league?

Anyway, the idea of moving on from Manning to Flynn if Manning isn't of the mind to pick Miami is not new. But I was told by a club source that the way in which the club does this is a "delicate matter" for several reasons:

You don't want to offend Manning by publicly moving on before he makes a decision.

You don't want to offend Flynn by making it obvious to him that you're interested, but only as a fallback position, if Manning doesn't come.

It is a tough balance, especially since other teams aren't going to be waiting on Manning's decision to chase Flynn. The Seattle Seahawks and possibly the Cleveland Browns may move on Flynn quickly to fulfill their QB issues.

So how do the Dolphins get in that chase, again, without hurting themselves, hurting Manning or hurting Flynn?

The answer: Delicately.

March 12, 2012

Report: Dolphins meet Manning in Indy

The Dolphins got their meeting with Peyton Manning. Tonight. Done.

The meeting took place in Indianapolis, according to ESPN's Chris Mortensen. Mortensen also reported the Dolphins were represented by four to five members of the organization. The meeting reportedly lasted between five and six hours.

This was definitely not a courtesy meeting with Philbin or phone call, as ESPN had earlier suggested.

I'll be texting/emailing/begging for clues in the morning on how the meeting went. It is assumed the Tennessee Titans are going to meet with Manning Tuesday.

Dolphins meeting with Manning seems more official

Home field advantage? The Dolphins lost seven of eight games on their own turf in 2010 so they have a different take on home field advantage than other teams. They are comfortable away from home and that's good because Tuesday's meeting with Peyton Manning will not be a local one, a source has told The Miami Herald.

I cannot say where the meeting will be. I can say it is not going to be in South Florida -- not at Sun Life Stadium as first thought, not at the University of Miami.

General Manager Jeff Ireland and coach Joe Philbin left South Florida Monday afternoon ostensibly to hook up with Manning at the "secret location" of their get-together. Yes, Ireland is expected to be part of the meeting with Manning.

It remains unclear if owner Stephen Ross will be there as well. If so, this is looking more and more like a full-blown meeting rather than the informal get-together we were led to believe would happen between Manning and Philbin -- one where only football was to be on the agenda and Philbin serving as Miami's lone representative or possiblly accompanied only by OC Mike Sherman.

Sherman, by the way, is still possibly included in this gathering.

All this could be both good or bad.

While this gives the Dolphins' meeting more a feel like that held by the Broncos and Cardinals over the weekend, it also puts the entire organization on display.

This fuller meeting shows Manning's willingness to be thorough. This more complete meeting shows the Dolphins are indeed seriously being considered, contrary to reports from other outlets. This isn't a courtesy meeting.

But exposing more people to Manning he is unfamiliar with or potentially uncomfortable with could backfire. It does not escape anyone's vision that the Dolphins have tried to put a significant full-court press for Jim Harbaugh and failed. Then they tried to attract Bill Cowher and failed. Then they tried to hire Jeff Fisher and failed.

So the pressure of this meeting succeeding is definitely on.

Take that any way you wish.

Peyton Manning to meet with Dolphins this week

The Dolphins will meet with Peyton Manning in the coming days, The Miami Herald has learned.

As I reported over the weekend, the meeting will be somewhat out of the box. It will not be at the team facility. It will possibly be at Sun Life Stadium, a source tells me.

[Update: ESPN is reporting this meeting will take place Monday night or Tuesday. ESPN, by the way, reported earlier today that the Dolphins were all but out of the chase for Manning and he would not be taking any more visits with any more teams. I credit them when they get things right or first. I'm going to tell you when they miss, too.]

The meeting will be led by Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. Philbin may include offensive coordinator Mike Sherman in the meeting, although that is not yet clear.

The meeting is expected to be almost 100 percent about football -- Xs and Os -- and Manning and the coach or coaches (if Sherman comes) getting to know each other. The extra-curricular stuff, such as a requisite pitch from the owner and promise of Super Bowl wins may not be part of this Miami pitch because, in part, Manning may be tired of hearing that he is the final piece that will take them to the Super Bowl.

I stress to you this isn't exactly how the Dolphins planned things originally. They planned a more elaborate set-up that would include owner Stephen Ross. It is now possible Ross will not be included in this meeting. This is Manning's preference, I'm told.

This much is also clear: This will be the Dolphins best hope of landing Manning. The team considers it a good opportunity, although I must say from the outside looking in, it doesn't seem as great an opportunity as the 6-plus hour meetings Manning took with the Arizona Cardinals and Denver Broncos.

The Dolphins had planned an elaborate meeting with Manning that, as I reported earlier, was not going to happen at the team's Davie facility. So that is not an issue at play now. The Dolphins wanted to stay out of the limelight of media coverage, anyway.

But until we know details of the length and expanse of this pitch, we won't know exactly how serious the Dolphins are in the Manning scheme of teams vying for his services.

I will say this: At least they are in the game.

Dolphins are still in Manning sweepstakes

This morning I did my usual round of texting/emailing/begging to my Dolphins and other NFL sources. And the question du jour (that means today) had to do with ESPN's constant reports that the Dolphins are down and nearly out of the Peyton Manning sweepstakes.

I reported to you over the weekend that Miami is in lockdown mode on the information and informed sources front. And there is two ways to take this approach.

It is either good news because it means the team is shutting down as to not hurt any possibility of getting Manning -- a possibility that still exists. Or ...

It means the club has locked down because Manning has swatted them aside like a gnat and Miami is simply trying to mask the embarrassment.

So I asked my sources if it's fair to believe lockdown mode is a sign the club is still in the game for No. 18 and doesn't want to hurt those chances.

"Fair," one source responded.

"Correct," another source responded.

There you go, folks. The Dolphins are still in the Manning sweepstakes. It is not over after Manning's trips to Denver and Arizona.

Doesn't mean the Dolphins will get Manning. But there is still hope.

March 11, 2012

Manning on the move from Cardinals facility

Various reporters covering the Peyton Manning visit to the Arizona Cardinals have confirmed Manning left the building after a 6 1/2 hour visit today.

Manning left, riding an SUV driven by Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt. They were trailed by club owner Bill Bidwell Jr.

It is unclear where Manning is going -- either to another Arizona appointment or to the airport. One assumes if he's en route to the airport, he could be headed back to South Florida. (Get the media helicopters warmed up!)

Reading those last couple of words probably gave Jeff Ireland arrhythmia. The Dolphins are still, yes still hoping to get an opportunity to meet with Manning. The Seattle Seahawks and Tennessee Titans also want such an opportunity, according to NFL sources.

Not all of those teams will actually succeed in getting an audience with King Manning.

I do know this: If the Dolphins do get the expected visit with Manning, they plan to "think outside the box," I've been told. That means they might not conduct most of their business at their Davie, Fl. facility. They will absolutely have to go there at some point, I suppose so that Manning can become re-acclimated with the physical plant.

But remember this isn't a certainty because Manning and the Indianapolis Colts used Miami's practice facility during both their Super Bowl visits to Miami. So he's been in the locker room and training room and so forth.

If the Dolphins go forward with this, um, different approach, I would say they would be gambling. Yes, it could convince Manning the team has his best private interests in mind by keeping him under wraps. Or the team could seriously freak the guy out that they simply don't do things as a normal operating NFL team does.

It is, as they say, a double-edged sword.

Peyton! Some Miami fans are on their knees

Despite ESPN's reports that the Dolphins are losing ground in the Peyton Manning sweepstatkes -- how does that happen when the club hasn't even met with him yet? -- some Miami fans are continuing their fullcourt press on trying to convince Manning to play locally.

Will Lopez, Hialeah resident and lead singer of local band Guajiro, has posted this video below on youtube.com. It's pretty cool this ditty sung to the tune of Layla by Eric Clapton.

This is the latest shout out to Manning from Miami faithful. Dwyane Wade has shouted out. LeBron James has. Somebody put up a billboard before anyone else did. Just saying.



Peyton Manning facts and speculation

Let's separate facts from speculation this morning because there is much of both swirling around the Peyton Manning derby.

Fact: The Dolphins are in lockdown mode. The organization has decided and orders have been passed throughout the organization that no one is to speak to the media even under the cover of background or off-the-record conversations. People that normally answer my texts or emails are ignoring me now -- beyond my family, I mean.

Fact: One source that ignored the orders at least one last time before also shutting down told me the Dolphins still expect to speak with Peyton Manning before he picks a team to play for in 2012, assuming he's healthy.

Fact: Peyton Manning himself has not said which team, if any, are the leaders in his mind on where to play. He has not eliminated the Dolphins yet.

Fact: ESPN reported this morning Manning's two "likeliest landing spots" are Arizona and Denver," and that Miami "isn't as high on the list" as the other two.

Fact: Last I spoke with someon in the Manning camp, which was Friday, I was told it was Arizona and Miami the likely spots with Denver needing to make up ground. Obviously this was before the Manning visit to Denver.

And now some interpretation:

The Dolphins are not out of this yet. The Dolphins typically operate by having general manager Jeff Ireland telling the agent representing the player Miami is interested in not to speak to the media about Miami's interest -- an approach that almost always gets ignored because an agent's agenda, by definition, is to drum up interest in his client not diminish it.

In this case, however, there may be nothing wrong with diminishing the Dolphins because there is so much attention on Manning and so many team interested that not including the Dolphins in the conversation is not a hinderance to his marketability.

Moreover, when the Dolphins have previously gone into lockdown mode it is never to cover that nothing is happening, but rather usually to protect something that is happening. I believe the Dolphins want to play this coy because they still clearly believe themselves in the game and don't want to risk being eliminated.

I think they also might have gotten spooked by that report that Manning was upset by all the media attention in Miami. Guess what, folks? He got the exact same treatment in Denver when he arrived Friday night -- complete with Helicopter chase coverage -- and the Arizona media hasn't exactly ignored his presence, either. So the attention concerns still feels artificial.

This is a concern: Denver, by sheer consequence of having John Elway as president, had someone who speaks the same language as Manning with him constantly. That's a plus. Arizona, by sheer consequence of the fact coach Ken Whisenhunt is an offensive mind and has taken a team to the Super Bowl and has a longstanding relationship with Manning, has someone with Manning who speak the same language as Manning with him constantly.

I'm not sure who the Dolphins would put in front of Manning who speaks the same language. Owner Stephen Ross doesn't. Ireland has never played or coached. And unless I am unaware of it, neither coach Joe Philbin or offensive coordinator Mike Sherman have any sort of previous longstanding relationship with Manning. This is troubling.

The Dolphins could address the issue by having Dan Marino part of the team working to get Manning ... but I don't know if Marino would do that. I don't know if it would feel contrived since Marino really doesn't work for the team. I don't know if that's the best or only way to get past the issue of making Manning feel he's got someone in the room that speaks his language.

March 09, 2012

Reports: Redskins trade for rights to RG3

The Washington Redskins had to know they were practically eliminated from the Peyton Manning derby earlier this evening. They'll be OK.

They just completed a blockbuster trade for the No. 2 overall pick in the April draft.

They're now in position to draft Heisman winner Robert Griffin III.

FoxSports.com first and ESPN afterwards reported the Redskins are sending the St. Louis Rams at least two first-round picks plus future considerations for the right to own the No. 2 pick. ESPN is actually saying three first-round selections -- the team's firsts this year, in 2013 and 2014 -- are involved in the exchange as well as this year's No. 2 pick.

The trade cannot become official until the new league year opens March. 13.

So what impact does this have locally?

On national radio with Profootball.com Friday I told Mike Florio the Dolphins weren't going to make a strong enough play for the second overall pick because the asking price was simply too high and the Dolphins 1. didn't wish to use their chips to move that high and 2. didn't want to send that many assets to Jeff FIsher, the man who declined to become their coach earlier this year and picked the Rams instead. The Dolphins, however, did inquire about the possibility of getting into this deal -- to no avail.

Given the price of the trade, the Dolphins weren't able to get in play for RG3.

But this absolutely takes another QB option off the table.

The Dolphins are fully invested in the Peyton Manning chase but the need to succeed there now grows for Miami because options are fading.

If the Dolphins add Manning, they'll consider themselves successful and set for the near future. If they fail to convince Manning to come to South Florida, the only apparent option to addressing the void for a franchise quarterback is free agent Matt Flynn or selecting a lesser-rated quarterback in the draft -- assuming there's conviction that would bring an elite player.

Dolphins make the cut for Peyton Manning

The Miami Dolphins have made the cut for Peyton Manning. He will visit with the Dolphins as one of three or four teams he'll talk to before he decides where he will continue his apparent Hall of Fame career.

It's unclear when specifically Manning will meet with the Dolphins. According to three NFL sources and a report from the Denver Post, Manning will be meeting with the Denver Broncos today or tonight, depending on whom one believes. The Post cited an unnamed source saying Manning would be in Denver this evening.

Within the last hour, I've been told by three people associated with the NFL that Manning could be meeting with the Broncos brass in Stillwater, Oklahoma. The Broncos brass is in Stillwater today for the Oklahoma State Pro Day.

The Post said the Arizona Cardinals are also on Manning's list of upcoming visits. I have not confirmed this independently but have been told Manning has "one or two other teams" aside from Denver and Miami that interest him.

Arizona and Kansas City are possibilities as is Seattle. Washington has been eliminated from consideration, one source told me.

Earlier today, ESPN reported the Dolphins' chances of landing Manning had suffered a blow based on the quarterback's apparent distaste for media attention. According to Adam Schefter, Manning didn't like all the attention he received from local media -- including a multiple helicopter chase of his van from the airport to Miami Beach.

I have tons of respect for Schefter. He's the best in the business. But, as ESPN folks would say, c'mon man! Media attention is freaking out Peyton Manning?

The man has played in two Super Bowls. The man has done more commercials than General Motors. The man hosted Saturday Night Live in 2007. The Mannings are not a family of shrinking violets. Brother Eli works in New York, the media capital of the world, and even forged the trade that put him in Gotham.

And Manning is spooked by Miami's local media? Or he's spooked by Miami being a bigger town than Indianapolis? Um, Phoenix and Denver are both bigger than Miami. And, in fact, Indianapolis has a bigger population than the City of Miami.

And, I remind you, Manning lives here.

So he's spooked by cameras but isn't spooked by, you know, important things like Denver's freaky weather and altitude? He's worried about a few TV cameras but will be comfortable with the avalanche of snow that will drop on his passes playing for the Broncos in December?

Stop. Please stop.

Please follow me on twitter.


Manning will trim teams before, you know, trimming teams

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.

March 08, 2012

Dolphins have not met with Manning ... yet

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, a celebrity auctioneer during Thursday night's Make-A-Wish foundation charity event at Sun Life Stadium, just told the media the Dolphins have not met with free agent quarterback Peyton Manning.

"We were in the office all day looking at tape," Philbin said of his work on potential draft picks.

General Manager Jeff Ireland also hasn't met with Manning. Ireland was dealing today with a family medical issue. It caused him to leave the University of Miami Pro Day before it concluded and he was unable to attend the Make-a-Wish event at which he was also expected.

Despite the fact the Dolphins haven't formally met with Manning, Ireland has contacted the quarterback's representation team. And while Philbin was vague with details, he suggested something concrete could happen in the next week.

"He's obviously had a phenomenal career up to this point in time," Philbin said of Manning. "From all indications he's been a great leader in that locker room and had a great career with the Colts. And we'll see how things develop in the next week or so."

Marino not recruiting, advising Manning unless asked

Dan Marino would love Peyton Manning to sign with the Miami Dolphins. Proof of that appeared on Marino's twitter page Thursday when the Hall of Famer tweeted, "Shout out to #18, Indy will never forget your legacy. Can't wait to see you back on the field doing what you do best."

Marino is a Manning fan. Marino thinks Manning would be a great wherever he lands, including Miami. But, you know, actually recruiting Manning to the Dolphins?

Probably not unsolicited.

“I probably wouldn’t do that unless he asks for some advice,” Marino said at a charity golf tournament today in Aventura. “And he has plenty of people that he’s working with to help him make the right decisions.”

Don't mistake that for ambivalence. Marino would have no problem pitching the Dolphins because he believes the team has possibilities.

"There’s great tradition there," he said. "We’ve had a couple off years but believe me, they’ll be back,” Marino said. “It’s a great franchise and they’ll get it turned around."

But truth be told, Marino said he thinks Manning would be good in Miami ... or Arizona ... or Denver ... or just about anywhere, really.

"I think he fits with anybody," Marino said. "He’s one of the best to ever play the game at that position. So wherever he ends up playing, if he’s healthy, which is going to be important to Peyton, I’m sure he wants to go out there and play at a high level. Wherever he plays, he’ll be a huge impact for that team."

Associated Press contributed to this report.

Philbin address to alumni shows attempt to balance building through the draft and Peyton Manning chase

As the Dolphins and other NFL teams chase Peyton Manning they recognize adding a potentially great player who is nearly 36-years old could improve the team dramatically, yes, but also could add to the roster a player fully formed by another team's culture, one who already established his philosophies and techniques while working elsewhere.

That can be a dilemma for some teams. It is apparently something of a dilemma for Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. You see, Philbin formed his philosophy on team-building with the Green Bay Packers in recent years and the Green Bay way is to build almost exclusively through the draft.

The Packers have not signed a free agent in two offseasons and Philbin believes, at least in part, that's the right way to do it. Yet, his team is chasing Manning, arguably the biggest NFL free agent in years.

Philbin addressed that dilemma on Wednesday evening when he met with an invited group of Dolphins alumni. The Dolphins invited their former players to the Nick Saban Memorial Bubble (NSMB) and had Philbin and his staff meet and greet with them.

"I was extremely impressed," defensive end Jeff Cross said this morning on my radio show, Armando and Perkins. "I had the opportunity to ask [Philbin] what about the draft stuck out for him, if anything. And he went on to say, I'm trying to summerize, he pointed out that in his entire time in Green Bay on offense, no single free agent wound up ever being a starter for them.

"So they are big advocates of drafting players and developing them. He actually said that good healthy players, the chances of good players being healthy and being allowed to become free agents is very minimal in the National Football League."

Former free safety Louis Oliver was also at the event and got the same message from Philbin.

"He was talking about his vision and his vision is he wants to build players from within, you know, draft and cultivate our own players as opposed to bringing in players from the outside," said Oliver, who immediately recognized the irony because of the Manning chase.

"But I think a guy like Peyton Manning puts you in such a dilemma because of what he can do and what he can bring to your team and organization. We're stuck right now with the question of building from the ground up or bringing people in and plugging them in right away because you know what you're getting."

Regardless of whether Philbin likes or dislikes the idea of filling his quarterback need with a free agent rather than a draft pick, he is clearly accepting of the fact the Manning chase is going to be the way the club will initially try to address the quarterback position.

"He finished his little talk with us with a little Q&A," Cross said. "And before anyone asked the first question, he jokingly addressed the Peyton Manning issue. He said there's going to be a Peyton Manning fund you guys can contribute to on the way out the door. So yeah, there seems to be a little disconnect between that and his personal philosophy on free agency."

Obviously, the Manning derby is the one everyone is focused upon now. But Philbin's stated philosophy seems more at odds with the idea of adding potential free agents that have been tied to Manning.

Yes, the Dolphins seem comfortable with Manning because he's a signature addition. But would their desire to add through the draft affect a decision on signing Reggie Wayne? Or Jeff Saturday? Those guys are considered Manning security blankets.

Do they fall in under the Manning umbrella or does the team's desire to add talent primarily through the draft excluse those aging veterans?

Cross said Philbin also shared with the alumni his view of Miami's personnel needs going forward.

"He feels the offensive line certainly has to be be better," Cross said. "He went on to say the pass-rush has to be better. And if we're going to beat New England, we have to have defensive backs that can cover their receivers. I thought that was extremely insightful as to where things might be headed in the next couple of months."

The Dolphins, by the way, have been very active lately getting both Philbin and general manager Jeff Ireland in the community and interacting with not only their alumni but fans. Ireland, for example, held a conference call with season ticket holders earlier this week.

Tonight, both will be at Sun Life Stadium as guest auctioneers in the "Ultimate Sports Auction," an event that will benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Cross and nearly a dozen other sports celebrities will be at the event. Philbin has also visited local newspapers and spoken to various business groups.

At no time, however, was he quite so transparent as how he was with the former Dolphins players.

March 07, 2012

The Peyton Manning interview in South Florida

Peyton Manning landed in Miami around 4 p.m. today, returning home from his emotional day in Indianapolis on Colts owner Jim Irsay's private plane.

And after a White Bronco-like chase from Opa-Locka in North Miami-Dade to Miami Beach, the now free agent quarterback stopped for reporters following the van that picked him up. He got out, waited for all the reporters and cameramen to gather and then had an impromptu news conference.


Earlier today he dismissed a previous erroneous report that the Dolphins were first or high on a priority list of teams he's interested in when he said, "I haven't thought about what team I'm going to play for." And in the afternoon he repeated the sentiment and added he has to figure out where he's wanted.

"I have no idea who wants me what team wants me," he said. "I literally have not had one conversation with anyone about these teams. It's been so hard to try to figure out some closure with my situation with the Colts that I haven't really concerned myself with that."

Manning, who can sign with any team he wants at any time he wants without having to wait until the start of free agency March 13, also said he isn't sure if he'll begin to take visits with clubs or they'll come to him or it'll simply be a situation where his agent begins negotiations and a deal with his new team is struck.

"I don't know if it's like college recruiting where you take visits," Manning said. "It's all new to me."

Oh, and perhaps the most important thing?

Manning has had at least three and perhaps four procedures on his neck to repair damage to nerves that caused numbness and atrophy in his throwing arm. The arm lost much of its much-heralded strength. But Manning has since regained much of that strength and he had a message for anyone wondering about his physical status.

"My neck is fine," Manning said. "The doctors have cleared me. That's been a relief to me. I've continued to work hard and the best part about it is being out there throwing again."

Breakdown of factors that could sway Manning

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.

Manning: 'I'm throwing it pretty well'

Peyton Manning is no longer an Indianapolis Colts quarterback. At an emotional press conference moments ago, Manning said both he and owner Jim Irsay have talked about the circumstances and they have decided it is "necessary we take this next step."

The next step for Manning is toward another team. Manning did not wish to speak about any possibility of where he'll wind up, instead using today exclusively to say his farewells. "I haven't thought yet about where I'll play," Manning said, "But I have thought about where I've been."

Manning later reiterated that "I really don't know, I probably need to ask someone what these next few steps are," when he was asked how he next goes about seeking a new team.

The most newsy nugget to emerge from the emotonal 13-minute press conference was Manning discussing the progress of his throwing. Manning missed the entire 2011 season following at least three and possibly four procedures to his neck meant to help nerves that serve his right throwing arm regenerate after they stopped firing.

Manning was unable to play because the nerve damage stole strength from his arm and prevented him from throwing at his usual capability. That capability, Manning said, has improved lately.

'I'm throwing it pretty well," he said. "I've still got some work to do, I've got some progress to make. But I've come a long way. And I've really worked hard. I can't tell you the hours I've put in to working hard. I really enjoy being back out there. I've had a chance to throw with some of my old teammates -- guys like Reggie Wayne, Dallas Clark, Austin [Collie], [Brandon] Stokley, [Jeff] Saturday's snapped to me a couple of times. That's been the most fun part ... being back out there on the field.

"You're in the training room all Fall, you're sort of off-limits to the field so to be cleared to be kind of be back out there and throw, I sure have enjoyed that. I'm doing better. I continue to work hard and hopefully keep making some progress."

Manning stopped short of saying he's 100 percent.

"I'm feeling closer and closer," he said. "I have to remind myself that it is March. I have a hard time doing that at times. But it sure feels comfortable. It feels like home being out there."

Manning mentioned that Irsay said he would always be welcome around the Colts. The Dolphins play the Colts this coming season. If he signs with the Dolphins, perhaps Manning can visit with the Colts the week before the game when they're drawing up their defensive game plan.

Manning signing could pay for itself from a business standpoint

Say whatever you wish about Dolphins owner Stephen Ross but someone doesn't become a billionaire without some financial acumen. And in authoring the Dolphins upcoming chase of Peyton Manning, it is clear Ross's financial expertise is at work.

Simply, the addition of Manning would be a boon for the Dolphins coffers. There is no doubt about that.

I would estimate the Dolphins could easily gain 10,000 season ticket customers if they land Manning. I'm basing this on the fact that lesser offseason moves in Miami history have seen a significant spike in season tickets sales and the addition of Manning would make those moves pale by comparison.

For example, sales jumped by approximately 7,000 season tickets in 1996 when Jimmy Johnson replaced Don Shula. Sales increased by almost 8,000 season tickets in 2006 when the Dolphins traded for Daunte Culpepper.

The mountainous addition of Peyton Manning would make either of those other moves seem like a speed bump.

So if you accept that Miami's season ticket sales, lagging the past couple of years, could jump dramatically with a Manning signing all you have to do is some basic math to see where the boon would come.

With the Dolphins average season ticket price at $78.50, an increase of 10,000 tickets sold would add $7.85 million to Miami's season ticket take. Add to that approximately $2 million coming in for extra parking and assuming each customer spends, say, $30 on concessions during each game -- a conservative estimate -- you're adding another $3 million to the gross.

So on tickets, parking and concession Manning could represent perhaps $12-$13 million to Miami's bottom line. That doesn't count merchandise sales, plus any potential playoff game sales.


Now, I'm not saying the Dolphins are going to chase Manning because they want to fill their stadium. Yes, they want to do that, but I am sold on the idea the team wants to win as much as sell tickets. Still, the selling tickets and making more money part would be a welcome outgrowth of such a signing.

And, really, I don't see how any other player addition outside of Robert Griffin III would light up the turnstiles like Manning would. Matt Flynn would not. Ryan Tannehill would not. The Dolphins could add Mario Williams and that wouldn't register like Manning would.

That fact, by the way, will not escape Manning's representation. I continue to stress to you that the much anticipated low-guarantee, incentive laden deal everyone is expecting to land Manning could easily fly out the window if some team gets desperate enough to bid high on Manning. And when you have multiple teams interested, there is definitely a chance of that happening.

But even by conservative estimates, Manning will get $8-$10 million in guaranteed money this year with perhaps another $20 million deferred to 2013 or set up as some sort of option bonus.

Under that reasonable scenario, Manning would more than pay for himself the first year. And that is good business.

[RADIO NOTE: It'll be Peyton Manning talk most of the morning on Armando and Perkins this morning. You can watch the show here or listen to the show in South Florida at 640-AM. We're on 6-10 a.m. You can call the show toll free from anywhere in the United States at 1-88-640-9385.]

March 06, 2012

Report: Peyton Manning to be released (warm up the helicopter!)

Peyton Manning is going to be released by the Indianapolis Colts and a press conference to announce the parting of ways is expected by Wednesday, ESPN is reporting.

Next stop Miami!

Um, I mean, next stop Miami?

Once Manning is free, the Dolphins expect to involve themselves in the chase for the future Hall of Fame quarterback immediately. Manning is able to sign right away. He doesn't have to wait until the start of free agency March. 13.

How likely the Dolphins are to land him is unknown and opinions vary based on who is talking. But suffice to say the Dolphins are "very confident" they have a good chance to land Manning assuming he is healthy, according to one club source.

Of course, one almost expects that to be the feeling. The Dolphins were confident they would land Jeff Fisher. The Dolphins were confident they would be in the playoffs the past couple of seasons. Confidence is good. But confidences guarantees nothing.

I'm told the team has had unofficial and off-the-record conversations with the "Manning camp" the past three months, although my source would not say if that included contact with Manning or his agent. [CORRECTION: Got a call from my source who says the conversations were the past three weeks, not months.] I'm also told the team would deny any contacts whatsoever because it could be deemed to violate the NFL tampering policy.

I do not know if these touch-base contacts assure the Dolphins of anything. Manning is expected to be a popular commodity in free agency.

Kansas City, Arizona, Denver, Washington and possibly the Jets are among some of the teams expected to show interest in Manning, along with Miami.

Because of the interest, I would not expect a bargain basement sale for Manning's services. Although his representatives have leaked word that Manning would accept an incentive laden contract that does not include high guaranteed money, there is word among NFL people that can change very quickly.

The truth is Manning has been throwing better of late and that, along with the expected high demand, could drive up his price. And that includes some guaranteed money, although not as much if he was younger and not dogged by his recent neck/nerve injury history.

Manning, 36 in two weeks, would typically be worth around $20-23 million per year. One could expect that Manning signs a deal that through guarantees and incentives (if earned) lands in the vicinity of that mark.