At noon local time in Indianapolis, a city, a state and a region are going to have their hearts officially ripped out. Thanks to the economics of the NFL game and, to a lesser extent, the egos of those involved, an historic era is going to end in the same city that has played host to the Super Bowl and college football’s top players in the span of the last month.
The Colts have called a press conference that will be carried live by several news outlets to announce that the team is going to release Peyton Manning. When Manning signed his last contract, part of it included a clause that would trigger the final three years of the deal. As part of that clause, Manning was due a $28 million roster bonus by the end of this week. After missing the entire 2012 season and the Colts having the chance to draft Andrew Luck in hopes he can be the face of the franchise for the next decade plus, the Colts are going to sever ties with Manning – arguably making him the most field-tilting free agent in the history of the game.
Rare has been the chance when a quarterback of Manning’s ilk has been available on the open market. Even Brett Favre was a tunnel push to the Vikings. He never made the rounds or had teams in competition for his services. Manning will if he can prove he is healthy and it could hold a significant impact on the Vikings with the third pick in the draft.
The Colts are going to replace Manning with Luck and the St. Louis Rams, who have the second pick in the draft, have made it clear that they’re willing to trade the second pick in the draft – presumably QB Robert Griffin III. However, the Rams’ current asking price of three first-round picks is being viewed as too steep for the most logical suitors – the Browns, the Redskins and the Dolphins. All of them have first-round picks in the top eight picks (Cleveland at No. 4, Washington at No. 6 and Miami at No. 8), which is what the Rams want in exchange for the No. 2 pick. But, the asking price is currently much too high for any of them to meet.
The Browns make the most sense, both in need and the ability to trade two first-rounders this year in a neat package that would end the responsibility of both parties and make incredible sense when viewed by the draft value chart. But, word out of Cleveland is that the Rams are getting cute and trying to overvalue the second pick because it is a potentially franchise-changing QB. What makes this situation interesting is that, a week or two from now, the landscape for trading the No. 2 pick may be vastly different.
When free agency begins next week, Manning is going to be available. So is Green Bay backup Matt Flynn, whose offensive coordinator in Green Bay (Joe Philbin) is now the head coach in Miami. If Redskins owner Daniel Snyder continues his longstanding tradition of overspending on over-the-hill free agents and Flynn wants some of Philbin’s home cookin’, the very real possibility exists that both Washington and Miami could take themselves out of the RG3 sweepstakes.
Advantage: Cleveland. While there is every reason to believe the Rams will trade the No. 2 pick, if they have to play “Chicken” with the Browns in a negotiation, there is the outside possibility that the clock ticks down on the Rams, they still hold the No. 2 pick and the Browns are standing firm on a 2-for-1 swap – take it or leave it.
A lot can (and will) change between now and then, but if the dominoes fall right, the only team in a position to swing the needed deal to get the Rams off of the No. 2 spot is the Browns. If they can’t reach an amicable agreement, the Rams may be forced to exercise the No. 2 pick and take either Matt Kalil or Justin Blackmon, and the draft suddenly opens up to other teams.
The Rams’ No. 2 pick carries a draft value of 2,600 points – 800 points higher than Cleveland’s No. 4 pick. Fortunately for both of them, the Browns’ second pick (acquired last year in the Julio Jones draft-day trade) is at No. 22. That pick is worth 780 points – a 20-point difference to 2,600 points when combined with the No. 4 pick. To make the trade as equal as possible, if the Browns threw in a sixth-round pick, it was be almost identical in terms of points. There is little chance the Browns would part with both picks to move up one spot for the Vikings’ pick.
However, now Seattle can get involved to create competition the Rams don’t have. The Seahawks could package their first- and second-round pick to the Vikings to move ahead of Cleveland and take RG3. Another team could offer the Vikings two No. 1 picks (one this year and one next year) to get into that spot to get in front of the Browns. In the process, with the clock ticking, it might motivate Cleveland to get busy and make a lopsided offer to the Vikings – perhaps its No. 1 and No. 2 pick for the Vikings’ pick at No. 3. This may be extrapolating potential to absurd proportions, but, when you consider that all that stands between the Vikings and being on the clock with RG3 still on the board is the ability of the Rams to trade out of the spot.
It seems like a forgone conclusion right now that St. Louis simply cuts a deal to get out of the No. 2 spot, but, until that happens, they’re sitting on a pick for a player they have no intention of drafting. It’s a strange place to be, and adding Manning to the potential conflict pool isn’t going to be good for them. At this point, anything bad for the Rams is good for the Vikings, especially if the dominoes fall right for the Vikings once free agency begins. The balance of power could shift away from St. Louis. If the dominoes fall wrong for the Rams, what happens then? Stay tuned.
The Vikings have yet to sign any of their own free agents while they still have a window to do so prior to the start of full-blown free agency. However, the team is talking with Erin Henderson about a new deal. According to 1500 ESPN, it would be for two to three years and $3-$4 million per season.
As expected, the City of Minneapolis is providing a hurdle on stadium legislation before it gets amped up in St. Paul. The city continues to try to tie in improvements to Target Center as part of its approval of a Vikings stadium deal. Despite having the least of the financial commitments to a Vikings stadium, the city’s insistence of getting a soon-to-be-antiquated Target Center involved in the approval process on its end could become a larger sticking point than initially thought.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.