Peyton Manning spent almost seven hours visiting with the Arizona Cardinals yesterday as the National Football League’s most prized free agent tries to decide which team he’ll sign with.
The quarterback has narrowed his options, with the Cardinals and Denver Broncos as his two probable destinations, ESPN said, citing unidentified people familiar with the situation. At least 12 teams contacted Manning after the four- time Most Valuable Player’s release by the Indianapolis Colts.
Manning was set to travel to Miami after his visits with the Broncos and Cardinals and may meet soon with the Dolphins, NFL.com said, citing unidentified league officials. The 35-year- old, who is recovering from neck-fusion surgery that sidelined him for the 2011 season, probably won’t meet with any other teams, ESPN and NFL.com said.
“If he’s healthy, he’s somebody that can help any team that he goes to,” Cardinals Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald told reporters yesterday at the team’s training facility. “I understand the interest. He’s a franchise quarterback, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Manning has also met with Broncos officials, including vice president of football operations John Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback who led the team to two Super Bowl victories.
Manning’s future is the biggest question as the NFL prepares for the start of its free agent signing period tomorrow at 4 p.m. New York time. The NFL said yesterday that this year’s salary cap is $120.6 million and all 32 clubs must be under the player payroll ceiling when free agency begins.
Unrestricted free agents, like Manning, can sign with teams beginning tomorrow through July 22 or the first scheduled day of the first NFL training camp, whichever is later.
Manning is looking to make a decision on his next team by tomorrow, the Denver Post reported last night, without saying where it got the information.
Quarterback Matt Flynn, who spent the past four NFL seasons with the Green Bay Packers, is among the other top free agents, along with Houston Texans Pro Bowl defensive lineman Mario Williams, and New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston and All-Pro offensive lineman Carl Nicks.
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