- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
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So the Peyton Manning era has ended in Indianapolis, giving him the opportunity to become a free agent. Surely many teams will be investigating whether Manning would be interested in playing for their squad and whether it would be a good fit overall. But is it wise to totally restructure an offense around a soon-to-be 36-year-old quarterback with an extensive injury history to a crucial part of his body? For any team, the payoff could be great, but the health risk is obvious -- and that isn't even getting into what type of salary it might take to land this surefire Hall of Famer.
First off, Manning isn't like everyone else. He is a very special player, and, even if he isn't at the level he was when we saw him last, I am confident he can be a high-impact quarterback for the immediate future. His greatest strength -- his mind -- remains fully intact, which allows him to avoid contact more than most quarterbacks thanks to his outstanding ability to decipher defenses and feel the pass rush. If I am a contending team that is a quarterback away, I have serious interest in Manning.
But the real question is whether his new team should change its offense around what Manning ran so well with the Colts or Manning should be the one to learn the nuances of a new system.
If a team chooses the former, Manning also could act as a coach on the field, giving the staff one more fantastic resource at its disposal to get everyone on the same page. If a team asks Manning to learn something new, he certainly will have some struggles, but, again, his mind isn't like those of most quarterbacks. My hunch is that Manning would be a quick study, and surely some philosophies and concepts will carry over to any new offense he is learning, speeding up the learning process over the course of the offseason.
In the end, the chances are that whichever team Manning lands with will incorporate its present offensive system intertwined with what Manning did with the Colts. Manning's offense in Indy included a zone run-blocking scheme that featured athletic, movement-based linemen, limited personnel groupings and formations, a ton of pre-snap reads and a timing-based passing attack that thrived after hours and hours of practice time.
Below are my best fits for Manning -- for player and for team -- in order from best to worst.
1dESPN Stats & Information