By George Kurtz
There has been quite a bit of speculation over the past two months as to where Eli Manning will play next season. The Giants finished 3-13 (worst record in franchise history) and have the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL Entry Draft. That selection is likely to be used on a quarterback, Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen. Manning’s numbers last season are concerning to say the least, so where he ends up will likely be determined by how much good football an organization believes he has left. Were his declining numbers due to a poor offensive line and multiple injuries to his receivers (Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall) or did Father Time and 14 years of playing in the NFL finally caught up to him? It should be an intriguing offseason not just for Manning but for several other NFL QBs as well. Here are my Top 8 franchises that Manning may call home next season starting with the team that I least likely expect him to end up with.
The Eli Eight
8. Cleveland Browns: Manning would certainly be a good mentor to any young QB but it’s hard to see him accepting a trade to any team that isn’t expected to be in the playoffs for a few years. He’s going to want to have a chance to win a third Super Bowl and although the Browns can certainly turn their organization around quickly with two Top 5 picks in next year’s draft, Manning isn’t going to play for a rebuilding team, especially one that has been rebuilding for what seems like a few decades.
Listened back to Eli Manning with us again yesterday. If you come away from that thinking he’s going to mentor a young QB with the second overall pick, you heard a different interview than I did. Prediction: Eli has played his last game as a Giant. https://t.co/sUXEVeDPBK
— Chris Carlin (@ChrisCarlin) January 3, 2018
7. Indianapolis Colts: This team would only be in consideration if Andrew Luck hasn’t recovered from his shoulder ailment during the off-season and the Colts wanted to turn to a veteran QB to try and keep the team competitive until he did. We all know that Peyton Manning also played there, so maybe owner Jim Irsay will have a soft spot for yet another Manning starting for him.
6. New York Jets: Well, Eli wouldn’t have to move if he just were to switch locker rooms and play for the Jets. They are another team that will likely draft a franchise QB and want a veteran QB to be a caretaker until said QB is ready to start. The problem is Josh McCown has already proven that he may be the perfect player for that role and had very good chemistry in the offense.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Manning could be an option now that Carson Palmer has retired. The Cardinals have some pieces in place with David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald hopefully returning. Fitzgerald may only come back next season if the team has a true number one quarterback to get him the ball. The Cardinals are an older team that may have a short window to compete for a championship and are unlikely to go into the season without a veteran QB at the helm.
4. Washington Redskins: If Washington is crazy enough to let Kirk Cousins walk then why not get Eli? The problem is I have an extremely hard time seeing the Giants trading Manning within the NFC East where they would have to face him twice a season and I certainly don’t see Washington overpaying to get him. Eli would have to be released in order for this scenario to take place.
3. Jacksonville Jaguars: There has been so much speculation that this is where Eli would end up because his former coach, Tom Coughlin, is now with the Jags’ front office. The problem would be, is Eli really that much better than Blake Bortles? The answer might be no. So why trade for him? Why not roll with Bortles or sign another veteran QB to compete with him? This situation will likely get much clearer once we see how Bortles fares during the playoffs. If he bombs, then it becomes a matter of when Jacksonville makes a move for a QB during the offseason, not if, as this team is ready to compete for a championship now.
2. Denver Broncos: The Broncos’ window for another Super Bowl parade is closing quickly. The defense played poorly during the second half of this season but that may have been because of how bad the offensive play was. One issue may be however that if you think the reason Eli wasn’t playing well with the Giants is because of the offensive line, well the Denver OL isn’t much if any better. Still, Eli would be an upgrade over anyone Denver has thrown behind center this season and GM John Elway may want to see if lightning strikes twice for him with the Manning family.
1. New York Giants: It just seems after the fiasco earlier this season with benching Eli for Geno Smith that the NYG will bring back Eli next year. They also won’t be able to get much back in a trade for him, so they may not want to just give him away or take another PR hit by releasing him just for cap reasons. The logic may be he can also be the veteran backup for Darnold or Rosen. It’s a mistake, but the Giants have made plenty of them this season. The Giants already have a new GM and more than likely will have a new head coach also, so it might be smart to just start fresh and let Eli go during the offseason rather than risk another media fiasco by benching him during the 2018 season. But that’s something they may not do, and if they bench him for a first round pick, there should be less outcry this time.
You can find me on Twitter, @georgekurtz
While Eli waits to find out his fate, read why Drew Brees will win this year’s Super Bowl.