The latest in the Peyton Manning story involves a Manning-Reggie Wayne reunion, which I'm told at least two potential suitor teams would seriously consider in an attempt to lure the rehabbing Manning if the Colts cut him between now and the March 8 deadline Indianapolis has for exercising a $28 million option bonus to keep the legendary quarterback.
Such a pairing would not only be a plus for Manning, who would love to see it happen, according to one NFL source. But also it would allow him to go to his new team with one familiar receiving face, and if you can say one thing about Manning, it's that he loves familiarity, particularly in how his receivers anticipate throws and the precision of their route-running.
Wayne, who teamed with Manning for 10 of his 11 seasons with the Colts, would allow Manning to enter a new phase in his career with a receiver who could be the template for other receivers on the team to emulate. I'm told the 33-year-old Wayne, a looming free agent when the market opens March 13, is very interested in the combo platter also. Wayne caught 862 passes in his Colt career, including 397 in a four-year span with Manning.
Where would the best fit be? Let's examine Manning's most likely suitors to see where Wayne matches up with team needs:
The guess here? Manning's going to be in an incredible power seat if he and his rehabbing neck are healthy when he works out for teams in the near future -- assuming, of course, the Colts release him by the start of free agency. Miami's owner, Stephen Ross, will be drooling to get him. As will the Jets' triumvirate of Woody Johnson, Tannenbaum and Rex Ryan. Seattle, an upstart, would provide Manning the relative privacy he'd love in the remote Northwest, a superstar trying to win one more title with a smart staff and a rising defense. With Washington, Manning would be matched with a coach he greatly admires, Mike Shanahan, and a top-10 defense.
And one more note from potential free agency, according to a source close to another free-agent receiver: Pierre Garcon, another Colt soon to be free, turned down a five-year contract offer from Indianapolis last week. More than one general manager at the combine said that's a sign Garcon doesn't want to do anything until he knows what Manning is going to do. What if, say, Washington GM Bruce Allen, with $49 million in cap room before adding the earned-incentives from the 2011 salary-cap year, says to Manning: "We'll recreate your 2010 receiving corps, and you'll have a defense already strong enough to play at a Super Bowl level.'' Could be very tempting.
It all hinges, of course, on Manning being healthy enough to be Manning. It won't be long before we know if he is.
I know I said I would write about the Oscar-winning NFL alum, and the agent for Andrew Luck today. I felt the Manning-Wayne story, being newsier, trumped both today. I ask for your indulgence. Rather than plow through both in too short a forum, I'm going to write about them next Monday, where I'll be able to pay them the proper attention. My apologies for misleading you.
Now onto your email:
THE RAMS SHOULD DEAL BRADFORD AND TAKE RGIII.
Mike, you're the spokesman for scores of people who asked the same question this week. There are three reasons the Rams won't do this. One: Jeff Fisher and the new offensive coordinator, Brian Schottenheimer, really like Bradford and think they can win big with him. The logical question if you trade Bradford is what will you get for him, and my belief after last year's injury-related disaster, you probably would get the equivalent of a mid-first-round pick. Could you get Washington's sixth pick overall? Maybe, if the Redskins don't get Peyton Manning. But I'm dubious. Washington would claim Bradford is damaged goods. So the assumption that you'd get a premier package for Bradford is no sure thing.
Two: The financials. The Rams have a load of cap room, so they can do whatever they want. But mull this over. If Bradford is on the St. Louis roster this year, his cap number is $15.6 million. If he is traded, he counts $14.4 million against their cap. The projected cap number for the second pick in the draft this year is $3.9 million. So if they trade Bradford and draft Griffin, the cap hit would be $18.3 million. That's not horrible. In fact, it's downright do-able. But now let's get to ...
Three: The real question here in deciding whether to deal Bradford is not just about the cap hit. It's about improving your team. So let's project two trades, one where the Rams keep Bradford and one where they trade him. If they keep him, the Rams have Bradford at quarterback and, using my example, Cleveland's two first-round picks this year (Nos. 4 and 22 overall) and the Browns' second- and third-round picks next year. So let's call that Bradford plus, overall, the fourth, 22nd, 38th and 70th overall picks over two drafts, plus $2.7 million more in cap money to spend from not trading Bradford.
Let's say they trade Bradford for the 16th overall pick this year (clearly just a guess on my part). So you can have Bradford plus four extra picks in the top 70 of the next two drafts. Or you can have Griffin plus one extra pick in the top 20. Me? I love Griffin from what I know right now. I'd be tempted, but I'd do what the Rams are doing.
I AM A PRUDE, EVIDENTLY.
I'd never rip the Red Sox for having a beer in the clubhouse after the game. But they apparently were having them during games, and team executives turned a blind eye to it, and still do, just hoping it'll all go away. Imagine if John Lackey gets knocked out in the second inning one day, and two days later he's having three beers in the clubhouse, thinking he's not pitching that day, and the game goes into extra innings and the manager calls for a tipsy Lackey to warm up to go in the game. That's what bugs me about this -- that it apparently happened and the Red Sox, by ignoring it, are saying to their fans, "Let this be our dirty little secret. And don't bring it up again.''
HERE'S A BRAZILIAN WITH A QUESTION.
Thanks, Peter. Well, it will be a slam dunk if it's the best offer St. Louis gets. But understand that the Redskins will probably be in play for Peyton Manning, so it's hard to answer the question about a trade with St. Louis before we know who's going to win the Manning derby. I'd be surprised if the Browns didn't offer a package that good for the second pick in the draft, and if I'm the Rams, I'd take Cleveland's offer, because I believe Cleveland's picks would potentially be higher if we're talking a one in 2012 and another one in 2013.
NOT A BAD IDEA.
I like the idea. The one negative is I think scouts and offensive coaches use the drills you see to judge how quarterbacks anticipate a receiver's cut and how to lead them -- and they use it to judge how receivers adjust to the ball too.
TROY WANTS TO FIX THE PLAYOFFS.
I think it's well-reasoned and obviously shows you spent a lot of time on it. My first problem with it would be giving an automatic win to four teams, particularly when very often one or more of those teams has gotten a top-two seed through a tiebreaker. I do like the emphasis on the regular season record, to be sure. But I also think it's a fair system when a fifth or sixth seed has to fight through three road games against teams (most often) with better records to get to the Super Bowl. I like your thinking, but I don't believe the system's broken.
THEY SHOULD BE.
I've been saying the Patriots have the cap room and should have the defensive versatility that would fit Williams perfectly. If I were them, I'd have a three-man free-agency priority list, in this order: Wes Welker, Mario Williams, Brandon Lloyd.