Manning should feel sense of urgency in picking his new team

by | CBSSports.com Senior NFL Columnist
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Peyton Manning might not have much time to consider his many options. (US Presswire)  
Peyton Manning might not have much time to consider his many options. (US Presswire)  

There's a report out there that says Peyton Manning probably decides where he plays next within a week, and that's good. He should -- not so much for what it will do for him as what it will do for his next employer.

That could be Washington ... or Miami ... or Arizona ... or any of the 12 clubs that reportedly contacted Manning's agent after the star quarterback was released by Indianapolis. All want to solve the most important position on the field, and most want it done sooner rather than later. The reason: Free agency.

It arrives next week, and it sure would make things easier if Manning's next club had him before the flood of free agents begins next Tuesday.

First of all, Manning would fill a hole at quarterback. So Miami, let's say, might not feel compelled to pursue Matt Flynn with Manning in tow. The same goes for Washington, though the Redskins could always wait on a later trade for draft prospect Robert Griffin III.

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Anyway, I think you get my point: You get Manning, you stay out of the free-agent market for a quarterback.

But there's another factor here: Any team that lands Manning gains one of the game's top recruiters. If the Dolphins were to sign him, for instance, the chances of adding someone like, say, wide receivers Vincent Jackson, Marques Colston or Reggie Wayne go up ... way up.

The same goes for Washington, Arizona, Denver, Kansas City, Seattle or whoever has interest in the guy. It's sort of like that Field of Dreams thing: If you sign him they will come.

And they will.

People want to play with Manning because of his 14-year record with the Colts. The guy wins, and he wins a lot. Plus, he's an accurate quarterback who piles up yards and touchdowns, and yards and touchdowns are what pass catchers crave -- especially with contractual incentives attached to either or both.

So better to add Manning early than late, and look no further than Miami for a reason why. Let's say Manning doesn't make a commitment before March 13. Tell me: What's the Dolphins' next move?

Answer: Probably to reach out to Flynn, who played for new coach Joe Philbin in Green Bay. Because if you don't, there's always the chance (likelihood?) that Flynn goes somewhere else, and that window is closed.

If, of course, the Dolphins are shut out there, they could always push for a trade with St. Louis for the Rams' first-round draft pick to choose RG3. But there will be nearly as much competition there, with Washington at the head of the class. The Redskins could pursue Manning, or they could pursue a trade with St. Louis to take Griffin.

In both situations, adding Manning now -- or before March 13 -- would serve as a signal that whatever team he chooses is serious about moving forward. Essentially, it would act as a recruiting tool that could convince a top-shelf free agent like Jackson, linebacker Mario Williams or guard Carl Nicks to take the next step.

"Look, y'all," said Arizona's Darnell Dockett in a tweet shortly after Manning was released, "I like our QBs. I don't care who the QB is; we're going to win the [NFC] West either way. But, damn, who wouldn't want to play with Peyton?"

Good question.

I don't know what Manning has left after a year off, and neither does his next ballclub. I heard him say he's close to returning, and I heard him say there's no doubt that he plays this season. All I'm sure of is that we won't know until he takes a hit, and that's a ways off -- which is why it's not a factor here.

What is a factor is time, and Manning's next club would like him to make up his mind soon -- and it doesn't take an Einstein to figure out why. You add a future Hall of Fame quarterback, you gain instant credibility and enhance your chances of attracting other valuable free agents.

So in Manning, you don't just get an accomplished quarterback. You gain a free-agent magnet ... provided, of course, you do it quickly.

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