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Sun, Feb 7, 2016

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Wherever Manning lands can alter course of team, division, league

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider

Released by Indy this week, Manning hasn't thrown for any of the teams vying for his services. (Getty Images)  
Released by Indy this week, Manning hasn't thrown for any of the teams vying for his services. (Getty Images)  

General manager John Elway and other Broncos officials, including coach John Fox, flew into Denver on a private jet that also carried Peyton Manning. One person described it this way: the Broncos were going to make an offer the former Colts great couldn't refuse.

The Broncos were so determined to get Manning, they actually told him he wasn't leaving without a completed deal. The person said Denver's selling points were these: a young team with a good offensive line, talent up and down the roster and the team's position in a winnable division.

League sources still believe the Dolphins are the front-runners, but the Broncos are making this extremely interesting. And remember: Elway is a former car salesman -- he knows how to sell, so Manning will hear a world-class pitch in Denver.

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But this isn't just about Manning and Denver. A person close to the situation confirmed Manning also will visit this weekend with other teams, including possibly Arizona. The person said Manning's desire is to have his team selected and a contract done by Tuesday, the start of free agency. That way, Manning could then be used as a recruiting tool for other free agents.

That date isn't set in stone, but it's looking that way. And it's typical Manning, who plans everything down to the microscopic level. Why would that change now?

Thus this weekend is shaping up to be the most important weekend in the Manning sweepstakes. By Monday, we should have a solid idea of where Manning is headed. It's likely, looking back, no other moment will be seen as more critical. Not only will these next few days determine the course of Manning's future, but also the course of many other franchises.

If Manning goes to Denver, it alters the complexion of that team for maybe the next three to five years. The Broncos could have storied days similar to when Elway was behind center. Manning signing there also would mean changes to the AFC West. It's a weak division that Manning easily could grab by the neck.

If he signs with Kansas City, also a possibility, the same applies. The Chiefs are a storied franchise in their own right. A healthy Manning could restore order to what has been a disastrous run for the Chiefs.

Currently seen as the leader in the Manning sweepstakes, Miami hopes the 36-year-old QB would give the franchise hope it hasn't seen since the days of Dan Marino and, before him, the perfect 1972 Dolphins. Should Manning sign with Denver or elsewhere, the Dolphins could continue to struggle.

This weekend is like a classic science-fiction movie in which the main character takes one path and a stream of alternate universes are created. One move could create a champion and sink another team. One move could change the course of a division, create a playoff berth or a Super Bowl appearance.

There is only one potential problem. Manning still hasn't thrown for these teams. He might this weekend, but longer he goes without throwing, the more suspicious teams might get that maybe his arm strength is still troublesome.

So far, at least, teams seem willing to sign Manning without fully working him out. So far, anyway.

One thing is becoming clear. Manning doesn't want this to go on for long. He doesn't want to be Reggie White going to numerous teams. I know Manning has a galaxy-sized ego, but it doesn't seem he wants to spend weeks being wooed. He wants something done fairly fast -- just like everyone else in football.

The recruiting of Manning resembles something from a movie. Players, especially on Twitter, are practically pleading for Manning to come to their teams, ignoring the uncomfortable fact that their teams already have quarterbacks. Cardinals defensive end Darnell Dockett has basically begged Manning to come to Arizona. Dockett apparently doesn't care the Cards already have a quarterback in Kevin Kolb.

Miami cornerback Vontae Davis actually went into a Price is Right-type routine, asking for Manning to come on down to the Dolphins.

By early next week, we'll have a winner -- after what is the most important weekend of the Manning sweepstakes. And maybe one of the most important weekends in recent league history.


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