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Ten-Point Stance: Peyton as a free agent still won't top Reggie circus

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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The general feeling around the NFL is Manning will wind up with the Redskins. (Getty Images)  
The general feeling around the NFL is Manning will wind up with the Redskins. (Getty Images)  

It's expected that Peyton Manning will become a free agent -- maybe in a few days from now. Many trees have died and bandwidth busted in the sake of proclaiming that Manning would be the biggest free agent of all time. There was one bigger. His name was Reggie White.

We have the tendency now in the media to declare the latest the most. If Manning does become a free agent (highly likely) he would be the second highest-profile free agent ever, not the first. That honor belongs to White.

Let me take you back to 1993. That year, 300 players were granted unfettered free agency following a union-owners deal. It was a unique and in some ways scary time for the NFL. Nothing like that had ever happened before, and White was the symbol.

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Every team in the NFL contacted White's agent. Every team. There was a rally for White of almost 4,000 Eagles fans in the city of Philadelphia as an attempt to sway White to stay.

White began his free-agency tour and eventually ended up visiting the Jets. The media was there in full force and a reporter asked White what might make the Jets more attractive to him. White didn't like the Jets' quarterback situation. At the time, the team's two options were Browning Nagle and Ken O'Brien. "In the back of your mind," White said, "it would be more attractive if Boomer Esiason were here."

Less than 24 hours later, the Jets sent a third-round choice to Cincinnati for Esiason. "The power of Reggie White is amazing," Esiason told reporters at the time. "I don't know where he is, but if I can find him, I will send him flowers."

Yes, that is true power.

Do you think if Manning today stated at a press conference after visiting with, say, Washington as a free agent: "This might be a more attractive situation if the Redskins signed Matt Forte." Do you think the Redskins would then go out and get Forte, not knowing if Manning was actually going to sign with Washington? Not even Danny Snyder would be that desperate. But that was White's power.

Every team bowed to White before he eventually signed with the Packers. There was nothing like it then. There will be nothing like it in the future.

Manning's expected free agency will eclipse Deion Sanders signing with Dallas or Curtis Martin joining the Jets. It will be a circus. It will be such a circus, Manning news will be broadcast on the Ringling Bros. Cable Network or RBCN.

But not even that expected craziness would top White.

2. If you are a fan and you taunt the family member of a player, you are a loser. If you follow around the wife of Tom Brady with a video camera hoping she says something stupid, congratulations, you did it, but you are still a loser. If you threaten to kill a player because he fumbled, you are the biggest loser. Thank you. Moving on now.

3. This year the surprise team was San Francisco. Next season, it'll be Miami.

4. If you want to understand why the Giants have been so great -- and there are a number of reasons -- the biggest might be front-office continuity. The team has had three general managers since 1979: the late George Young (who should be in the Hall of Fame), Ernie Accorsi (who had a pretty terrific career himself) and Jerry Reese. Three. And it's not like the first two were fired. Young and Accorsi voluntarily left their positions leaving the team in far better condition than when they arrived. They were brilliant, and now Reese is holding his own. Some organizations -- I'm looking at you Dallas, Washington, and a host of others -- still don't understand how important that is. Stability in the front office is the most important thing to a franchise -- other than finding a solid quarterback.

5. Charles Barkley is an idiot.

6a. Champ of the week: Roger Goodell. Was his letter to fans this week thanking them propaganda? Hell yeah, but anytime a league thanks its fans, the lifeblood of sports, I'm cool with it. Read the letter in its entirety here.

6b. Chump of the week: M.I.A. Middle finger seen 'round the world.

6c. Tweet of the week: From Patriots player Sterling Moore: "This dude used my car while I was in Indy, wrecked it, moved without telling me. Ppl who u thought was real (are) fake." Truism.

7. Look for Peyton Manning and Jim Irsay to meet within the next 48 hours -- if they already haven't done so secretly. Manning, I'm told, wanted some time to pass before meeting with Irsay so his brother could celebrate his championship in peace. Manning knows the minute he and Irsay meet, it'll become public (mainly because Manning or his agent will leak their side of it).

8. Speaking of Peyton, everyone I speak to in the NFL -- and I mean just about everyone -- believes if Manning becomes a free agent, the Washington Redskins will sign him.

9. It was reported recently that the agent for Drew Brees was baffled over how long it was taking for the Saints and Brees to reach a deal on a long-term contract. I was told by one Saints player that Brees feels the same, if not worse. While Brees has publicly stated he has no concern a deal will be struck, privately he is telling some teammates his frustrations are starting to rise. This will get done, but the fact it's moving so slow is causing many in the NFL, including Brees, to wonder just what the hell is taking so long.

10. I wanted to end with a little perspective on runner Ricky Williams who retired from the NFL this week. Williams was a talented, overrated, smart, dumb, responsible, reckless, savior, albatross, star and non-star. He was everything. Through no fault of his own he remains a symbol of just how insanely idiotic Mike Ditka was to trade basically his entire draft for one player. That move wrecked the Saints franchise and put immense pressure on Williams. That pressure in turn wrecked him, too. He would recover, then fail, then recover and finally find stability in the final stages of his career. Let's hope he'll find the same type of stability in his life that will last.

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