Now that Peyton Manning has decided to play with the Broncos, what will the teams who were in the running for the four-time league MVP until late in the process do at the all-important QB position?
PFW's editors Dan Arkush, Dan Parr and Arthur Arkush take a quick look at the teams Manning didn't choose (in alphabetical order) and where they go from here.
As far as any fallout in the desert resulting from Manning's decision to sign with Denver, one concern that could be very valid is the confidence level of QB Kevin Kolb, whom everybody in Arizona was ready to write off right away if Manning had decided to hook up with the Cardinals. What should help Kolb's confidence is the fact that the Cardinals still thought enough of him to pay him a $7 million roster bonus last Friday, furthering a commitment that has yet to pay dividends. While Kolb definitely has hungry backup John Skelton breathing down his neck, he also has an excellent opportunity to wipe a disappointing 2011 slate clean and make significant strides in his second season in a relatively complicated system.
After being spurned by Manning and losing out in the Matt Flynn sweepstakes, as well, the Dolphins still have some intriguing options to consider as they search for an answer at quarterback. They visited with free-agent Alex Smith on Sunday, although he could end up returning to the 49ers. They also could be in position to draft Texas A&M's Ryan Tannehill — who played for Dolphins offensive coordinator Mike Sherman in college — with the eighth overall pick. Another possibility is pursuing a trade for Broncos QB Tim Tebow, who would return to his home state and bring the star power that owner Stephen Ross desires.
With the Niners' full-court press for Manning falling short, it appears the football is back in Alex's Smith court, provided he hasn't been swept off his feet by whatever deal Dolphins owner Stephen Ross might be offering him. While Smith wouldn't be human if his feelings weren't hurt more than a little by the Niners' pursuit of Manning, it seems doubtful he would hold a grudge that would make it hard for him to resume playing in San Francisco. When the announcement broke that Manning had chosen Denver to be his new team, Smith was in Miami weighing an offer by the Dolphins reportedly in the same neighborhood as the deal Matt Flynn reportedly received from the Seahawks late Sunday afternoon (three years, $26 million). A three-year, $24 million offer from the Niners supposedly has been on the table for a while now. With perhaps a few adjustments, the smart money suggests Smith will sign a new deal with the Niners and pick up where he left off last year. But if Miami gives him an offer he can't refuse, the Niners' fall-back would be Colin Kaepernick, the 36th overall pick in last year's draft, or possibly free agent Josh Johnson, who played for Jim Harbaugh at the University of San Diego. Either of those options would appear to be a big-time downgrade.
Despite failing to land Manning, the Titans are in good shape under center with incumbent starter Matt Hasselbeck and promising youngster Jake Locker set to battle it out for the starting job in camp. Perhaps the biggest negative ramification of not signing Manning is being left to think about what could have been. In addition to the status quo at QB, the Titans completely changed course on their free-agent plans because owner Bud Adams insisted on entering the Manning sweepstakes. While Tennessee was waiting on Manning's decision, it missed a golden opportunity to address its greatest weakness, the lack of a pass rush, with proven stars like Mario Williams (Bills) and John Abraham (Falcons) signing deals elsewhere.