Hundreds of NFL players must wait until Tuesday afternoon until they become free agents and begin to shop their services around the league.
There is, of course, one notable exception. What — and when — quarterback Peyton Manning decides about his future will have an impact on any number of those others, according to ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski.
“This is unprecedented,” Jaworski said. “A player of this caliber — Peyton Manning — has never hit the free agent market. Ever. So there’s definitely a ripple effect, and I think teams are going to have to decide quick because Tuesday the league year starts so there’s a lot of decision-making that goes into place — What players are you going to keep? How are you going to stay under the cap?
“So you need to know do you have Peyton or do you not have Peyton?”
Jaworski spoke exclusively to The City Paper on Friday after he addressed a crowd of roughly 350 at monthly breakfast meeting at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena hosted by Accelerent, a locally based business development and networking platform. His remarks focused on the similarities between the competitive nature of business and sports.
Manning became a free agent last week when he was released by the Indianapolis Colts, who are expected to take Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck with the first overall pick in next month’s draft. The league’s only four-time most valuable player (he shared one with former Titans quarterback Steve McNair) missed the entire 2011 season while on the mend from multiple neck surgeries.
Jaworski estimated that roughly 75 percent of the 32 NFL franchises ought to entertain the idea of adding Manning.
“You have to consider, no matter who you are — literally — whether you can go and get this guy,” he said.
Whatever it costs to land him, the team that does get Manning is likely to end up with more than just an elite passer. They’re going to get an offensive philosophy and someone prepared to install it.
“When you look at Manning — and I’ve been to [Indianapolis] practices,” Jaworski said. “He’s not only the quarterback and the offensive coordinator and the head coach. I’m telling you, this guy runs practice.
“I don’t mean to demean [Colts coaches] Tony Dungy and Jim Caldwell, but Peyton Manning was that team. So wherever he goes, you’re going to have to have a pretty solid coach that’s secure in his own skin because you’re going to have to run Peyton’s offense. You’re going to learn what he does best because you don’t want to lose that instant recall and application, which is what he’s the best I’ve ever seen at — seeing a defense, recognizing it and then applying it. He’s going to have to bring his offense, teach the other guys his offense so he can be at his best.”
Jaworski also addressed several other topics.
• On the Titans’ 9-7 record last season, their first under Mike Munchak: “I really thought two years ago they were a descending football team. Jeff [Fisher] left and in his last year they were 6-10. They just didn’t look like a good football team. The quarterback position looked weak. You had Chris Johnson, but then he’d been a little nicked up and then you had the holdout last training camp.
“I think Mike came in and did a tremendous job. He established a foundation.”
• On the controversy surrounding the New Orleans Saints and so-called “bounties”: “Bounties have always been a part of the game. The Monday after the game you’d get a fishing pole for a big hit, or a driver or a putter, a color TV. It was the recognition. There was never any, ‘Hey, let’s cart this guy off Let’s maim him.’ It was never to that degree.
“From what I’m hearing, the Saints took it to another level and it’s bad for the game.”
• On any lingering effects from last year’s lockout, which canceled or delayed virtually all offseason activities: “I’ll say this about football players, football teams, football organizations and the league — they have amnesia. Really, when a plays over you’re on to the next play. When the game’s over you’re on to the next game, You forget about it. That’s done. It’s history. You can’t do anything about it. The only thing you can control is the next play, the next game, that sort of thing.
“That’s the approach the NFL always seems to have through labor troubles and individual player troubles. The league just always looks forward.”
• On Titans running back Chris Johnson: “I think, from an offensive standpoint, if Chris is back healthy that’s huge. Huge. There’s a shelf life for everybody. For running backs, it’s usually shorter than for everybody else. Hopefully he’s back because I love watching him run because he’s a very entertaining player.”