“There’s something about 18 years,” said Manning Monday at his retirement press conference. “Eighteen’s a good number.” Manning wore the number 18 to honor his brother Cooper, whose career ended in high school after he was diagnosed with spinal stenosis. Hopefully Cooper’s been working on his short game.
“I’m going to go on vacation again after this,” said Manning when asked about his retirement plans. “I’ll go play a little golf pretty soon with my two brothers and we’ll kind of enjoy this.”
Manning deserves a break. He’s been at it for 18 years and all he has to show for it are five MVP awards, two Super Bowl rings, 14 Pro Bowl appearances and too many records to count. Though I’d still put Manning behind Tom Brady and Joe Montana because of their postseason success, Peyton is without a doubt the greatest regular season performer in NFL history. Even if Brady stays healthy for the next four or five seasons (which would put him well into his 40s), he’ll have a tough time matching Manning’s yardage record (71,940), which computes to almost 41 miles of passes. Breaking his touchdown record (539) will be just as difficult.
It’s important to mention Brady because his rivalry with Manning was one of the best in NFL history, if not all of sports. The same way Magic Johnson and Larry Bird are forever linked, Manning and Brady will always be thought of in the same context. Including the playoffs, Manning and Brady squared off 17 times, more than a full season’s worth of games. Brady had the overall edge (11-6) but Manning won three of their five postseason battles including each of the last three. Manning addressed the rivalry briefly in his retirement speech. “I’ll miss that handshake with Tom Brady,” he said while choking back tears. “I’ll even miss the Patriot fans in Foxboro. And they should miss me. Because they sure did get a lot of wins off me.” Brady acknowledged Manning with a congratulatory Facebook post on Sunday. “You changed the game forever and made everyone around you better,” said Brady. “It's been an honor.”
There was a time when Manning’s career was in jeopardy. He missed all of 2011 after undergoing spinal fusion surgery and was cut by Indianapolis after the season. He resurfaced in Denver and proceeded to write one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history. Manning was the runaway winner for Comeback Player of the Year in 2012 and followed that up with an MVP season in 2013 that included an NFL record 55 touchdown passes and 5,477 passing yards. Overall, his four-year stay in Denver produced 140 regular season touchdowns, 46 wins and two trips to the Super Bowl.
If Manning waited any longer to announce his retirement, things could have been awkward. There’s no way the Broncos were keeping him around after his lackluster 2015 season. With free agency on the horizon and Denver only on the hook for $2.5 million in dead money, Peyton would have been a goner.
Steelers running back DeAngelo Williams chimed in on Twitter, insulting Manning’s last year by quipping that he “couldn’t play dead in a Western.” That’s harsh, but the point is well taken. Manning earned PFF’s eighth-lowest grade out of 37 qualifiers at quarterback this past season and was little more than a game-manager during Denver’s postseason run. The Super Bowl fell into Manning’s lap this year, but there were so many times in his career that he should have won and didn’t that we’re kind of obligated to give him a freebie.
Much has been said about Manning’s alleged sexual harassment at the University of Tennessee and one question was asked about it during his press conference. It was posed by USA Today’s Lindsay Jones, who thought Manning “deserved a chance to respond” to his allegations. “I think it is sad that some people don’t understand the truth and facts,” said Manning. “I did not do what has been alleged and I’m not interested in re-litigating something that happened when I was 19 years old.”
With Manning gone, the Broncos are doing everything in their power to keep Brock Osweiler. They’ve already offered him three years and over $45 million, a pretty generous sum for a player who’s only made seven career starts. The Browns, Rams and Texans are all looking for a franchise quarterback and the Jets might be too if Ryan Fitzpatrick walks. Meanwhile, Osweiler was involved in an altercation over the weekend. TMZ has the video, of course.
Manning’s retirement gave us a feel-good moment Sunday when the news was first reported by ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, who was diagnosed with Stage 4 throat cancer about two months ago. “You can tell my voice is good, so the tumor and mass is shrinking,” said Mortensen over the phone on Monday. “I’m probably in the late second quarter—I haven’t hit halftime yet.” All of us wish Mort the best in his recovery.
Eagles Go To Work
I predicted this. No seriously. The first column I ever wrote for Rotoworld was about DeMarco Murray’s enormous workload in 2014 and how it would affect his 2015 season. Murray signed with the Eagles and just as I predicted, the Jenga blocks came tumbling down.
Murray was a complete and utter train wreck in 2015. Starting Wednesday, he’ll be someone else’s train wreck. Murray, it appears, is headed to the Tennessee Titans. Even if the Titans send over a bag of balls and an Applebee’s gift card, the trade is a big win for Philadelphia. The deal provides cap relief, and more importantly, it gets rid of a locker room headache. Murray signing with Philadelphia was the football equivalent of an ex dating your best friend to get back at you. Murray showed up to practice and he wore his Eagles uniform on Sundays, but mentally, he never left Dallas. Now he’ll join a backfield that ranked 25th out of 32 teams in rushing yards last season.
At first glance, Murray would seem to be a huge upgrade over Antonio Andrews, who spent last season running with a piano on his back. But amazingly, Andrews and Murray averaged exactly the same yards per carry last season (3.64). A clean slate could help Murray’s frame of mind but it won’t take away the 846 carries he’s logged over the last three seasons (postseason included). Back in Philly, Ryan Mathews should transition smoothly into the starting role, assuming he stays healthy.
It’s up for debate whether the Murray swap was even the Eagles’ biggest trade of the day. Earlier Monday, the Eagles agreed to send Kiko Alonso and Byron Maxwell to Miami in exchange for draft considerations. Maxwell and Alonso are big names but both were flops in their first year with Philadelphia. Alonso couldn't stay on the field while Maxwell was consistently roasted in coverage. The trade frees up about $9.44 million in cap space, most of which comes from Maxwell’s $8.5 million base salary. Maxwell and Alonso will both be playing for their third team in as many seasons.
Some might interpret the Eagles’ trades as a way of distancing themselves from Chip Kelly, but if that’s the case, why did they re-sign so many players that were brought in by him? Zach Ertz and Lane Johnson were both drafted by Kelly while Malcolm Jenkins was a free agent addition in 2014. All were signed to long-term extensions this offseason. Sam Bradford, who was acquired by Kelly in a trade that sent Nick Foles to St. Louis, also agreed to a new contract. Chip may be in San Francisco now but his fingerprints are all over this team.
Quick Hits: The Patriots picked up Rob Gronkowski’s $10 million option bonus for next season. Kind of a no-brainer … Dwayne Allen re-upped with the Colts on Monday. His new deal is for four years and $29.4 million … NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport says the Cardinals are making a “huge push” for Bruce Irvin. The former first-round pick said he’d be willing to give the Seahawks a hometown discount but the money in Arizona might be too good to pass up … ESPN’s John Clayton believes the Seahawks will have interest in Arian Foster. Seattle’s workhorse, Marshawn Lynch, retired earlier this offseason … The Broncos gave restricted free agent C.J. Anderson the lowest possible tender, meaning they won’t be compensated if he signs elsewhere. Ronnie Hillman, who split carries with Anderson in 2015, is an unrestricted free agent … Dashon Goldson was let go on Monday. His release provides the Redskins $8 million in cap relief … The Redskins finally cut Robert Griffin III on Monday. According to Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman, 10-15 teams have shown interest in RG3 … Alfred Morris acknowledged he won’t be back with the Redskins by thanking the team on his Instagram account … Former Ram Chris Long will visit Washington on Tuesday. After playing his whole career as a 4-3 defensive end, Long would likely move to outside linebacker in the Redskins’ 3-4 scheme … Another ex-Ram James Laurinaitis visited the Falcons on Monday. He met with New Orleans last week but left without a contract … Tre Mason was arrested for marijuana possession on Saturday. He’s also facing charges for resisting arrest, reckless driving and failure to register a motor vehicle … Former Cowboys running back Joseph Randle was arrested for the sixth time in 17 months on Sunday. He’s being held on $150,000 bail after failing to appear in court … The Dolphins dumped Greg Jennings over the weekend. The move saved Miami $4 million in cap room … Jordan Cameron has agreed to restructure his contract. He’s caught just 59 passes for 810 yards over his last two seasons … Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald suggests the Dolphins could move on from Olivier Vernon if another team offers more than his $12.7 million transition tag. Instead, the Dolphins would likely sign two players for what it would have cost to keep Vernon. Miami placed the transition tag on Charles Clay last offseason only to see him sign with division rival Buffalo … Eric Weddle is on the Panthers’ radar, though the team isn’t expected to make a big splash in free agency. Weddle has played his entire career in San Diego but is leaving the organization on bad terms … Logan Mankins announced his retirement on Monday. He went to seven Pro Bowls in 11 seasons … Julius Peppers has reportedly been trying to recruit Matt Forte to Green Bay. Peppers and Forte were teammates in Chicago for four seasons … The Giants have told Victor Cruz they plan to cut him if he doesn’t accept a pay cut. Cruz hasn’t appeared in a game for the Giants since October of 2013 … The Giants were expected to bring Mario Williams in for a visit but now that’s off the table. Williams, who met with Miami over the weekend, is asking for a $10 million annual salary … The Steelers signed Darrius Heyward-Bey to a three-year, $3.8 million contract. He managed just 21 catches last season … According to NFL Network’s Rand Getlin, Anquan Boldin wants to sign with a team that will “compete on the highest level.” Guess that means he won’t be back with the 49ers … Jahri Evans visited the Bills on Monday. The Saints axed him last month after he turned down a pay cut … The Browns will pursue Marvin Jones in free agency. The team was expected to re-sign Travis Benjamin but now it looks like he’ll hit the market … Josh Gordon and Johnny Manziel, two guys who probably shouldn’t be hanging out, attended UFC 196 together in Las Vegas over the weekend. Gordon is still waiting for the NFL to reinstate him after serving a year-long suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy … Antonio Brown, Doug Flutie and Von Miller will all appear on the 22nd season of Dancing With the Stars. Former NFL players Donald Driver, Emmitt Smith and Hines Ward have won in past years.