Should They, Will They? Peyton Manning and the Eagles

Should They, Will They? Peyton Manning and the Eagles

You've no doubt heard the rumbling out of Indianapolis. Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning is currently locked in a staring contest with the Colts over a $28 million bonus due on March 8.

Manning, of course, has not played football in over a year, and various reports indicate he is not fully recovered from multiple neck surgeries, the most recent of which he underwent in September. Meanwhile, the team owns the first pick in April's draft, and they are expected to choose quarterback and "can't-miss" prospect Andrew Luck.

It's widely assumed the front office will not pay, and Manning will wind up a free agent in the next few weeks. There are already whispers as to where he could wind up, and there is even a murmur in Philadelphia. Should the Eagles pursue a Super Bowl-winning signal caller if he becomes available?

Colts owner Jim Irsay officially dropped the gauntlet on Tuesday, telling Mike Chappell of the Indianpolis Star he wants Peyton "to make the choice" to stay. In other words, Manning can remain with the organization that drafted him in 1998, as long as he is willing to renegotiate his contract.

In certain circumstances, that option might make sense, but Manning is better off testing the market at this point.

The Colts are in the midst of a complete rebuild, so most of the players, coaches, and executives Manning worked with are either gone or on the way out. It does not appear the team can easily compete for a championship next season -- with or without Peyton -- and with his replacement due to arrive during the offseason, a low-ball offer seems likely.

Manning stands to make far more money, and perhaps find a better opportunity to win now, by negotiating with a bunch of desperate franchises that are clinging to the hope a veteran quarterback might put them over the top.

Believe it or not, some people think the Eagles should be among the teams who pursue the four-time league MVP -- provided he is healthy, of course.

The first problem with that idea is Michael Vick.

For better or worse, the Eagles are essentially married to Vick for at least one more season. Vick's entire $12.5 million salary is guaranteed in 2012, so it's not like cutting him is an option, and that dollar amount coupled with whatever Manning expects to earn is far too much to invest in one position, in case you were actually entertaining the ridiculous notion of keeping both of them.

That leaves a trade, but shipping Vick out is not likely to happen either. Even if they found a partner willing to take on his contract -- and this is actually the easy part given its favorable structure, with the bulk of the guarantees paid off by the end of 2012 -- the Eagles would be hard-pressed to find fair compensation for a 32-year-old quarterback coming off a subpar, injury-riddled season.

Even supposing the return on Vick is not as important as the upgrade at quarterback brings us to issue number two: you are operating on the assumption Manning is, in fact, an upgrade at all.

This would be dangerous thinking.

There remains a very real possibility Peyton Manning will never play football again. Sure, he says he will, and no doubt Peyton is determined to get back on the field, but doesn't this situation set off some red flags?

Manning is trying to come back from multiple neck surgeries. As recently as six months ago, he sought stem cell therapy in Europe. He is finally tossing the pigskin around, but several initial reports claim there is a distinct drop in his velocity, and he has trouble or is unable to throw deep or across his body.

Manning turns 36 in March, which puts him well out of his prime, as he attempts to regain physical abilities that made him great. Should he somehow manage to overcome all of the adversity, it's very hard to believe he could ever be the same player.

Is 75% of Peyton Manning capable of winning a Super Bowl, and still better than 90% of the NFL's starting quarterbacks? Maybe, maybe not, but what about 50% of Peyton Manning? 25%? There is no question he has the football IQ to outlast his talent to a certain extent, which may make him effective enough to lengthen his career.

Yet there are dozens of guys who have hung around after their abilities had already eroded, and never won a thing.

Vick, for all his flaws, at least has his physical gifts still largely intact. A tick or two have no doubt been shaved off that 40 time, but he can still sling the rock, can still turn the corner on would-be tacklers, and can still create big, explosive plays.

Honestly, there is no discussion for Peyton Manning in Philadelphia right now. There is no guarantee he ever plays again, no guarantee he makes the Eagles better even if he does, and that's without a proper debate about Mike Vick's value, trade and otherwise.

When Manning hits free agency in the next few weeks, and the Arizonas and Miamis and Washingtons go searching for lightning in a bottle, as those franchises are wont to do, the Eagles should sit back and let them fight over the scraps. Vick might not be perfect, may never lead Philadelphia to the promised land, but at least we know what we are getting.


Manning-fied Eagles' logo via Dave's Art Locker. Check out Manning face logos for every team in the league.

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

Best of NBA: Dwyane Wade hits dagger 3-pointer in Bulls debut

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 22 points in a triumphant Chicago debut, Jimmy Butler had 24 and the Bulls won their season opener, beating the Boston Celtics 105-99 on Thursday night.

Wade nailed a 3 from the corner in the final minute to make it a five-point game. Taj Gibson added 18 points and 10 rebounds, and the new-look Bulls got off to a winning start after missing the playoffs last season for the first time since 2008.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 25 points. Avery Bradley had 16, and Jae Crowder 14 points, but the Celtics came up short after opening with a win over Brooklyn the previous night.

The Bulls remade their roster in the offseason, jettisoning one hometown superstar and welcoming another when they traded Derrick Rose to New York and signed Wade to a two-year deal worth about $47 million in a move that stunned Miami.

The three-time NBA champion and 12-time All-Star is off to a good start with the Bulls after 13 seasons with the Heat.

Wade hit 4 of 6 3-pointers in this game after making just seven all of last season (see full recap).

New-look Hawks roll past Wizards
ATLANTA -- Dwight Howard dominated the boards in his Atlanta debut, Paul Millsap scored 28 points and Tim Hardaway Jr. ignited the new-look Hawks to a 114-99 victory over the Washington Wizards in their season opener Thursday night.

Howard grabbed 19 rebounds to go along with 11 points, just what the Hawks expected from their new center, and it certainly wasn't unusual for three-time All-Star Millsap to lead the way in scoring.

But Hardaway's performance was totally unexpected given the way he struggled in his first season with the Hawks, when he was largely confined to the bench and even forced to spend time in the D-League.

He scored 21 points, matching his high in an Atlanta uniform, and broke open a close game with back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth. The Hawks, who led only 81-80 heading to the final period, outscored the Wizards 33-19 over the final 12 minutes (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

Best of NHL: Canadiens rally past Lightning for 6th straight win

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty scored the tiebreaking goal in Montreal's three-goal third period as the Canadiens beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 Thursday night for their sixth straight win.

Alex Galchenyuk and Torrey Mitchell also scored to help Montreal improve to 7-0-1. Carey Price made 29 saves to win for the fourth time in four starts this season.

Alex Killorn scored the lone goal for the Lightning, who lost against an Eastern-Conference opponent for the first time this season. Ben Bishop stopped 23 shots.

With the scored tied 1-1, Pacioretty got the go-ahead goal at 10:23 by beating Bishop glove-side. Blown coverage by the Lightning left the Canadiens' captain all alone on the edge of the face-off circle, and Bishop couldn't see the shot with Andrew Shaw posted firmly in front of goal.

Montreal remains the only NHL team still undefeated in regulation (see full recap).

Crosby's late goal gives Penguins win over Islanders
PITTSBURGH -- Sidney Crosby scored the tiebreaking goal late in the third period to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 4-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Thursday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel also scored -- each getting his third of the season -- to help the Penguins win for the third time in four games and improve to 5-0-1 at home.

Crosby, playing for the second straight game after missing the first six with a concussion, scored with 2:25 left as he caught a pass from Scott Wilson at the top of the crease and quickly turned to his forehand to put the puck behind Islanders goalie Jaroslav Halak.

Kessel added a power-play goal to cap the scoring 32 seconds later.

Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 35 shots while starting for the eighth straight game.

Travis Hamonic and Shane Prince scored for the Islanders, and Halak finished with 31 saves (see full recap).

Streaking Red Wings win marathon shootout vs. Blues
ST. LOUIS -- Henrik Zetterberg scored in the eighth round of a shootout to give the Detroit Red Wings a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Zetterberg's goal gave the Red Wings a six-game winning streak.

In the shootout, St. Louis' first shooter, Alexander Steen, scored but then Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Nail Yakupoc, Robby Fabbri, Patrick Burgland and Dmitrjij Jaskin all came up short.

Gustav Nyquist scored on Detroit's second attempt but Frans Nielsen, Dylan Larkin, Andreas Athanasiou, Tomas Tatar, Riley Sheehan and Darren Helm all missed.

St. Louis had the better chances in overtime. Center Jaden Schwartz missed a wide-open net early in the extra session. Jori Lehtera was stopped on a breakaway midway through the period by Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek (see full recap).