The hiring of former Green Bay offensive coordinator Joe Philbin has only increased the speculation that the Miami Dolphins may make a run to sign free agent QB Matt Flynn, who backed up Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. But Flynn has apparently taken a back seat to one signal-caller in the mind of Dolphins owner Stephen Ross: Peyton Manning.
The Palm Beach Post reported Sunday night that the Indianapolis Colts superstar is atop Ross' wish list. The Colts are almost certain to use the first pick of April's NFL Draft on Stanford QB Andrew Luck, and with Manning due to make a $28 million roster bonus on March 8, the Colts could release Manning in order to save themselves a boatload of money (not to mention salary cap space).
Ross wants the Dolphins to acquire a franchise quarterback this offseason, and Manning would most certainly qualify. In his first 13 seasons with the Colts, Manning averaged 4217 yards and 30 touchdowns per season.
Manning missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury that required surgery. It is not certain whether Manning will even play in the NFL again. Last week actor Rob Lowe caused a stir when he tweeted that he heard Manning will retire due to the neck injury. Manning's injury required spinal fusion surgery in September.
Because of his neck injury, as well as his advanced age (at 36, Manning is among the oldest active players in the NFL), acquiring Manning would carry significant risk. It may not be in the team's best interests, despite the potential for significant short-term gain.
Ross wants a franchise quarterback, Manning does not have many more seasons left in the tank, even in the best-case scenario. And Philbin said in his introductory press conference that he does not "buy into the one-player-away mentality." Paying big money for Manning might hurt the Dolphins' chances at signing other players at areas of need like defensive back and offensive line.
Neither Ross nor any Dolphins official is allowed to comment publicly on the matter of Manning. Since he is still under contract with the Colts, that would qualify as tampering. Still, it would be more surprising if the Dolphins weren't thinking up ways to acquire Manning.
But if Manning can't become a Dolphin, the team will probably try to acquire Flynn. Philbin mentored Flynn in Green Bay, and the Packers seem ready to let Flynn walk via free agency (ah the luxury of having so many good quarterbacks on a roster that you can let one walk and start for another team without giving it second thought).
This will probably not be the last time we hear about Manning and the Dolphins, though. The biggest problem facing the Dolphins front office will be the competition. ESPN reported Sunday that the New York Jets, Arizona Cardinals and Washington Redskins are also interested in acquiring Manning.