Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
It now seems inevitable that the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning will part ways sometime before a $28 million payment is due on March 8, 2012.
The latest comments by owner Jim Irsay calling Manning a "politician" and saying "you don't put the Horseshoe in a bad light" should be the signal for teams needing a Hall of Fame quarterback to start lining up their financing.
The interesting part from a fantasy standpoint is his landing spot.
No matter where he goes, it doesn't appear that he'll find a receiving corps like the one's he's always had in Indianapolis. There is no team on this list that can put together a group like Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie and Dallas Clark. That group, along with earlier versions that included Marvin Harrison and pass-catching backs like Edgerrin James and Marshall Faulk have helped Manning throw for 54,828 yards over 13 seasons. Basic math puts Manning's passing yards-per-season at 4,217 and 30+ touchdowns which is pure fantasy gold.
The question we will all be pondering over the off-season will be two fold; a) Will Manning be healthy next year? b) Where will he play?
While only Manning and his doctors know the answer to the first part of the question, we can take some educated guesses as to where he could play and what the offenses would look like with a healthy Manning under center.
Manning's agent, Tom Condon, should have plenty of options for his star quarterback, assuming he is healthy. The media in New York has already been talking about the possibility of having a "second" Manning in the city with the elder brother wearing green and white of the Jets. Other obvious options include; Arizona, Seattle, Washington and Miami.
Let's look at these opportunities to see which would hold the best fantasy value for Manning.
New York Jets - Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum said just the other day that the team was still behind third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez, but the opportunity to get a future Hall of Fame quarterback to go along with their "championship caliber" defense might be too much to resist. Manning would have a solid wideout in Santonio Holmes and a reliable tight end in Dustin Keller, but they have nothing to compare to the Colts' Reggie Wayne. Also, Shonn Greene, while being a solid running back, is average-to-below-average as a receiver. As a fantasy product, Manning would probably still throw for around 4,000 and 28-30 touchdowns. That puts him in the Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, 250-275 point range.
Arizona - The Cardinals can't be happy with Kevin Kolb's performance in 2011-12 and John Skelton is not the answer. A deal for Peyton could put the Manning-to-Larry Fitzgerald combination at the top of the list equal to that of this year's best duo, Matthew Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson. Fitzgerald's fantasy value would skyrocket. So too would the values to Andre Roberts, Early Doucet and Todd Heap. A top receiver, throwing indoors again and a head coach, who with Kurt Warner showed the willingness to pass as often as necessary, might give Manning his best fantasy opportunity. Think 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns or a season like Manning produced in 2009.
Miami - The Dolphins also have a talented receiver in Brandon Marshall, though he's a bit of a head case. They have a nice possession receiver in Davone Bess a reliable tight end in Anthony Fasano and a great receiving back in Reggie Bush. What they don't have on their roster is a quality quarterback. Chad Henne is a free agent and their roster shows only Matt Moore and Pat Devlin. None of the trio could be confused with Manning. The signing of new head coach Greg Schiano, who has never been an NFL head coach, might be a sticking point as Manning won't really know what kind of offense he'll be stepping into.
Seattle - The Seahawks went 7-9 last season with Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback. The offense has a very good running back in Marshawn Lynch, but question marks galore at the receiving position. Can Sidney Rice get healthy? Ditto Mike Williams? Will the Golden Tate draft choice ever pan out? Is rookie Doug Baldwin for real? It's hard to see Manning going to Seattle with all these question marks.
Washington - The Redskins started both Rex Grossman and John Beck during the season, but neither quarterback had a passing rating above 72.4. Meanwhile, Manning's got a career QB rating of 94.9. Washington does have some receiving talent in aging Santana Moss, Jabar Gaffney, tight end Fred Davis and a running back with excellent hands in rookie Roy Helu, but again its not up to what Manning's accustomed to in Indianapolis. Still, if Manning is looking for the biggest paycheck, owner Daniel Snyder has been known to offer lesser talent a large suitcase full of money.
A not-so-obvious landing spot could be San Francisco where another Condon property, quarterback Alex Smith, is also a free agent. If Smith were to find a more lucrative offer elsewhere, Manning could end up in northern California with a team built to win next year. The 49ers have one of the league's best tight ends in Vernon Davis, but the receiving corps is a bit light with inconsistent Michael Crabtree and Braylon Edwards. Still, Manning can only imagine how much fun it would be to only need to score 17 points to win a football game. He's never had that option. From a fantasy standpoint, however, this would not be a great spot.
The bottom line is, if Manning and Irsay can't mend their fences, then I think his best fantasy value is if he ends up playing in the Arizona desert.