Who protects Manning in Denver?

With the Manning Sweepstakes in high gear, the quality of the OL play in Denver is something that’s been a peripheral to the circus itself. Without doubt, the quality of a team's receivers and offensive line will be part of the equation for Peyton as he chooses a new home. Of course, Peyton demands a high level of play from the players around him - he directs his troops with an iron hand and a sharp tongue on the field. It’s among the key reasons that he - much like John Elway did in his time - has annually driven players with lesser talents to the playoffs, winning a Lombardi Trophy along the way and making another Super Bowl appearance three seasons ago.

It's often been noted - here, elsewhere - and by Peyton himself - that Indy has had a rough time at pass protection in recent years. Yet, during Manning's last three seasons, he took just 40 sacks in 48 regular-season games. It's safe to say he's looking to go to a team where pass pro won't be so much of an issue. That considered, how does Denver's front five stack up relative to Manning's standard?

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Will Peyton decide before start of free agency today? Lard 3-13-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! The Dolphins finally got their meeting with Peyton Manning, even if it likely wasn't quite what they had likely envisioned. Instead of the full-court press both Denver and Arizona were able to employ, Miami sent new head coach Joe Philbin, OC Mike Sherman, and other members of the coaching staff, who met with Manning in Indianapolis for between five and six hours last night. 

Manning is next expected to meet with Titans coach Mike Munchak either today or tomorrow at an undisclosed location. The Titans were reportedly planning on making a big push to sign Mario Williams but have now instead shifted their attention to Manning.

Meanwhile, John McClain reasserted yesterday that Houston is not pursuing Manning, and there is still no indication the 49ers have any interest, despite Mike Klis's report to the contrary.

Klis says there's an outside chance Manning announces his decision before today's 4pm ET free-agency kickoff, and he reports that John Fox assured Peyton he would be allowed to run his hurry-up offense in Denver. Of course, if this weren't the case, Peyton wouldn't have bothered showing up in the first place.

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49ers sign Randy Moss; Texans not pursuing Manning; Broncos tender all five RFAs

12:45 AM Been asked for thoughts on Mike Silver's article. In an nutshell it's this: he took the path of max clicks.  Everyone else took one side of the argument, so hopping on the other was sure to get more play--especially given his historical treatment of Tebow. In this case, playing Tebow as the victim was bound to get the most eyeballs because most writers had already given the take that going after Manning--under any circumstance--was the right course of action. I remember Silver saying on radio once his job was to get people to read his stories. He knows what he's doing. That's why he's lasted as long as he has.   

12:01 AM Random thought from TJ after listening to the Brandon Stokley interview on 104.3 The Fan for the 3rd time: Stokley said, "if Peyton wants me to come back and play for the Broncos, I will."  Yeah, I know. I shouldn't read too much into this, right?  

11:30 PM Pete Prisco weighs in: The word I hear tonight from one league exec is he thinks Manning, Wayne and Clark all might be going to Denver.  

Not sure how much stock to put in this.  If Prisco's forecast is anything like his ability to pick NFL games on a weekly basis, this one is a loser.

11:16 PM Jeff Darlington (Brady Quinn's BFF): High-ranking Dolphins source says coach Joe Philbin indeed met with Manning for 6 hrs tonight in Indy. Again, few details from team's side.

Joe Philbin or John Fox, who you got?  Give me the Marlboro Man any day of the week.

11:07 PM Former Coach Brian Billick on whether or not he'd want Tebow in a trade: they don’t want him, why should I?”

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Manning willing to work out, offer financial protection for injury Lard 3-12-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Peyton Manning spent over 6.5 hours meeting with Cardinals officials in Tempe yesterday before heading back to Miami, where he owns a condo. Yet despite his proximity there to the Dolphins, it still is not expected that Manning will meet with the team that had been largely considered the favorite to land the QB - that is, until Denver got involved. If Manning does turn down Miami's advances, the team is expected to turn its attention to Green Bay QB Matt Flynn tomorrow.

Tennessee owner Bud Adams made it abundantly clear he'd like an audience with Peyton, but there are currently no expectations that will happen. Yet, Albert Breer thinks several factors make the Titans an attractive option for the former UT Volunteer.

Vic Lombardi set the Twittersphere afire last night by saying the Broncos are "95% confident" they'll sign Manning because they heard from the QB, but the team disputed that report. Mike Florio seems to think there's substance behind Lombardi's tweets, and it could be the Broncos are simply respecting the process. It's worth noting that Lombardi has been the most consistently accurate Denver media figure throughout this process - so there's that.

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Lombardi: Broncos 95% confident Manning coming to Denver

Per the master, Vic Lombardi:

Just heard from my peoples (sic). Broncos now 95% confident he'll sign with Denver. Their number, not mine...Broncos were contacted by manning TONIGHT

The Broncos wouldn't use this kind of language (would they?) knowing Lombardi is about to send this news out to the world.  The other 5%?  Let's call it the margin of error.  This is all but done, Bronco Country--according to someone.

UPDATE: Lindsay Jones and Michelle Beisner are throwing some lukewarm water on Vic's story.  Not sure what to make of the situation, but Lombardi has been all over this story from the beginning.  Someone inside Dove Valley believes the Broncos got them a HOF QB not named Elway.  The cook perhaps?

DOUBLE TROUBLE UPDATE:  Darren McKee, Andrew Mason, and Chris Mortensen (John Clayton's brother) himself are all saying the Broncos had no contact with Peyton Manning today.  From Mort:

Broncos official wants it known: Manning didn't call team today or tonight & inform they're 95% fave. Manning source already refuted to me

Okay, who in the hell hacked Vic Lombardi's twitter account in the last hour?  

TOTALLY TUBULAR TRIPLE UPDATE: Lombardi appears to be crumbling under the avalanche: 

Learning how powerful Twitter really is. Not trying to cause an uproar. Is this really life or death? Let's sit back and wait.

I'd hate to be Vic if the Broncos don't get Manning at this point because no, it really isn't life or death.  It's football.

Broncos expect Manning to choose by Monday night

11:45 PM No word yet if Tim Tebow plans to drop the "2" from GB². 

11:11 PM The way Doug Farrar hears it, the Chiefs aren't going quietly: Just talked to a reliable source in KC -- the Chiefs aren't out of it either. Productive meetings between KC and Peyton's people.

11:07 PM As Mike Florio reports, the Cardinals have serious work to do to create cap space if they want to sign Manning: The Cardinals are $16.4 million over the cap, as adjusted to reflect $2 million in 2011 carryover and $1.333 million in downward adjustments.  Amazingly, the Cardinals could have carried over $7.04 million.  They opted only to carry over $2 million.

Not sure why the Cards didn't carry over the full amount.  Did they not think this all the way until the end?

8:45 PM Klis reports that contracts were never discussed on either of Manning's visits to Denver and Arizona; Bowlen met with Manning for 20-30 minutes and Bowlen said he wants Super Bowls, not division titles; Brandon Stokley and John Lynch met with Manning while in Denver; Arizon was "red carpet" while Denver was "low key;" finally, Klis believes this could drag on until Tuesday if the Titans and/or 49ers were to make a run at Manning. 

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Manning “leaning toward Denver” Lard 3-11-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Peyton Manning is currently in Arizona to visit with the Cardinals after having departed Denver last night  . Expectations are that Manning will head back to his Miami home sometime tonight, potentially meet with the Dolphins at some point, and make his decision by Tuesday morning and the start of free agency.

Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen are reporting that Denver and Arizona are the favorites to sign Manning, who is apparently refusing Seattle's advances. Their source who spoke with Peyton sometime before his meeting with the Cardinals says Manning appears to be "leaning toward Denver."

Back in Denver, Woody Paige is pompously reminding us that he and Mike Klis were the first to report Manning's visit to Dove Valley despite having self-servingly written three days ago that Denver had no shot at landing the QB.

He says the two parties spoke for more than 15 hours between Friday and Saturday, and the Broncos apparently told Peyton they are willing to sign some of his fellow ex-Colts via free agency. According to Paige, Manning's people reached out to the Texans to gauge interest but were told the team is not interested (which John McClain of the Chronicle had made clear from the start).

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Jim Saccomano blends hubris and ass kissing

Jim Saccomano, Vice President of Public Relations for the Broncos, accomplished something today worth noting. He combined his typical effervescent I've been in this game longer than y'all have hubris and combined it with his other chief quality--namely, ass kissing.

First, he managed to bang out this tweet:

This is a constant Sacco theme, and it goes something like this: critics suck, but we know what we are doing over here. Of course, he said this before Josh McDaniels, during Josh McDaniels, and after Josh McDaniels.  He also did it before Tebow, during Tebow, and perhaps (now) after Tebow. In short, every decision the Broncos make is right, right now.  I'd find this sort of loyalty laudable if it weren't purchased with six figures.

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Manning in Arizona; Broncos confident

1:05 AM Steve Nash is now putting himself into the Manning chase on the side of the Cards.  "It'd be a great fit here," Nash said. "There is a good offensive line and the best wide receiver in the game (Larry Fitzgerald), so that speaks for itself."

11:44 PM Alfred Williams places the Broncos' chances of landing Peyton Manning at 90%, for what that's worth

11:30 PM Kent Somers: Peyton Manning is definitely in Arizona, sources confirm

8:40 PM Mike Florio: A source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that Manning currently is “making it up as he goes.”  Per the source, Manning never envisioned being in this situation, and he simply hadn’t planned for it...Which means that it will be critical for the various suitors to establish with Peyton a real connection that will allow him to believe it’s the right move, wherever he ends up moving...In this regard, there’s also a benefit to being the last team who meets with Peyton.  If it’s a close call, the folks he’s with when he’s close to making up his mind will have a decided advantage.

7:40 PM Fox31 in Denver: A source told FOX31 Sports that Manning’s visit went “very well” and Broncos management “feel(s) strongly they are the frontrunners at this point.  The source indicated that Manning feels there are “no negatives with the Broncos.” Peyton would like to make a decision by Monday, but by Tuesday at the latest.

Sounds like Arizona has a small window here to blow Manning away.  It better be all that and a bag of chips if they are going to beat John Elway.

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Recapping a wild NFL Friday Lard 3-10-12

Good Morning, Broncos fans! Friday was a remarkably eventful day for the Broncos - Peyton Manning spent at least 10 hours with the Denver leadership in Oklahoma, Dove Valley, and Cherry Hills, and there's a possibility the two parties will reconvene this morning. While Manning is expected to depart for visit(s) to Arizona and/or Miami, word is that no meetings have yet been scheduled, and there's thus always the slight chance Elway & Co. get Peyton to sign on before he can even make it out of town. Kansas City is asking Hey what about us?, but it's yet to be seen whether they're a real contender.

Less exciting for Denver was the announcement that D.J. Williams, Ryan McBean (six games each), and Virgil Green (four games) will be suspended for PED use, with allegations of non-human urine and the specter of federal lawsuits by the former two against the NFL adding to the drama. Green claims his suspension is for prescribed ADHD medication that he had failed to notify the NFL about initially, but he is cleared to take it going forward.

Elsewhere, Mike Shanahan ostensibly put all his chips in on Robert Griffin III, sending to St. Louis the #6 and #39 picks in this year's draft, plus Washington's first-rounders in 2013 and 2014, in exchange for the second-overall pick next month. There are reports that this move does not take Washington out of the Manning sweepstakes, but adding both RG3 and Peyton is wacky even by Shanny and Dan Snyder's standards, not to mention that signing in D.C. now makes even less sense for Manning than it already had.

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